NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Brown Collar" Jobs

August 19, 2003

Hispanic immigrants piling into the labor market are weighing down the wages of all workers in a broad range of blue-collar occupations in big cities across the country, according to a new study by Lisa Catanzarite, a sociologist at the University of California - Los Angeles.

According to the study:

  • Occupations in which new Hispanic immigrants account for a quarter of the work-force pay as much as 11 percent less than those where there are no new Latino immigrant men.
  • Toward the lower end of the wage ladder, where average annual earnings are about $21,600, jobs in which new Hispanic immigrant men account for 10 percent of the labor force pay $950 less per year than similar jobs with no new Latino arrivals.
  • Where new Latino male immigrants account for a quarter of the labor pool, the wage penalty is almost $2,400.
  • The new immigrant males from Latin America -- defined as those who have been in the United States for less than five years -- aren't more than 5 percent of the total labor force in any metropolitan area.
  • But in some cities they represent as much as 29 percent in a specific employment category, like janitors and roofers.

While the study shows the link between Latin immigrant labor and the pressure on wages, Catanzarite notes that some industries in which new Latino immigrants work -- such as textile production -- might not even exist in the United States if it weren't for cheap immigrant labor.

Source: Eduardo Porter, "Hispanic Newcomers Damp Wages: Study Calls for More Workplace Rules And Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants," Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2003; Lisa Catanzarite, "Wage Penalties in Brown-Collar Occupations," August 18, 2003, University of California, Los Angeles.

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