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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Labor Force Position of Latino Immigrants in California


This report examines the labor force position of Latina and Latino immigrants in California. There has been considerable immigration from Latin America throughout the 20th century, with much of this migration coming from Mexico. In the last 20 years, immigration from Central and South America has increased significantly. How immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries fare in the U.S. economic system is a critical research and policy issue. Prior research points to the particular low status position of Latino immigrants in the labor force (Morales and Ong, 1993). Immigrants are typically concentrated in low wage manufacturing jobs, particularly in the garment, plastic, and furniture industries, as well as in low level service jobs, such as restaurant workers, janitors, and private household workers.

Overall, it was found that individual factors—especially education and English language ability—were important in explaining the especially disadvantaged position of non-citizen immigrants. Moreover, individual and structural factors had a strong direct effect on the labor position for both men and women while family characteristics were more important for Latinas than Latinos. We found that gender differences in labor force position were pervasive, with Latinas consistently in a lower status position than their male counterparts.

These findings suggest a number of policies that could be implemented to assist in improving the labor position of Latinos and Latinas.

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