Ethnic niches, pathway to economic incorporation or exploitation? Labor market experiences of Latina/os
Morales, Maria Cristina
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This dissertation investigates the ethnic labor market activities of the Latina/os. This study is important since regardless of their historical and increasing presence in the U.S., Latinos continue to find themselves disproportionately at the bottom of the social hierarchy (Saenz, Morales, and Ayala 2004). Furthermore, due to their lack of access, a significant amount of the members of this group are turning to employment in an ethnic niche. While there is no consensus as to what exactly constitutes an ethnic niche, a distinct characteristic is the co-ethnic nature of the work environments. Special focus is placed on how immigration status/nativity, gender, nativity, and skin color influences job search activities and wage differentials in the ethnic niche. While these factors have been found to impact the mainstream labor market, our knowledge of how these factors operate in a work environment with a dominant presence of co-ethnics is ambiguous. Utilizing data from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality (MCSUI), results show that Latina/os workers in co-ethnic niches receive fewer economic rewards than their ethnic counterparts in the general labor market. Furthermore, within the Latina/o population dark-skinned individuals are more likely to be employed in ethnic niches while the lighter-skinned are more likely to be employed in the general labor market. When examining the stratification factors of immigration/nativity status, gender, and skin color, in addition to social networks, findings show that these stratification factors operate in a similar fashion in ethnic niches as they do in more mainstream labor markets. Thus these findings question the presumably protective work environment of ethnic niches.