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Do immigrants work in riskier jobs?

Abstract

Recent media and government reports suggest that immigrants are more likely to hold jobs with poor working conditions than U.S.-born workers, perhaps because immigrants work in jobs that “ natives don’t want.” Despite this widespread view, earlier studies have not found immigrants to be in riskier jobs than natives. This study combines individual-level data from the 2003-2005 American Community Survey with Bureau of Labor Statistics data on work-related injuries and fatalities to take a fresh look at whether foreign-born workers are employed in more dangerous jobs. The results indicate that immigrants are in fact more likely to work in risky jobs than U.S.-born workers, partly due to differences in average characteristics, such as immigrants’ lower English-language ability and educational attainment.

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Additional information

The authors thank participants at the 2008 Population Association of America, Society of Labor Economists, and IZA Annual Migration Meeting conferences for helpful comments. Madeline Zavodny thanks the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity, Boalt Law School, University of California, Berkeley, for financial support. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas or the Federal Reserve System. Madeline Zavodny will provide data and coding information to those wishing to replicate the study.

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Orrenius, P.M., Zavodny, M. Do immigrants work in riskier jobs?. Demography 46, 535–551 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.0.0064

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Keywords

  • Injury Rate
  • Undocumented Immigrant
  • English Ability
  • High Injury Rate
  • Fatal Occupational Injury