Volume 46 - Article 1 | Pages 1–36  

Exploring the role of legal status and neighborhood social capital on immigrant economic integration in Los Angeles

By Ashley Muchow, Robert Bozick


Background: Existing research has emphasized immigration policy and social capital as two crucial elements of reception that influence immigrant labor market outcomes. While much attention has been paid to these two factors in isolation, a limited body of empirical work has examined how they intersect, specifically how social capital influences the economic integration of immigrants legally precluded from the formal labor market.

Objective: Our goal is to examine the extent to which immigrant legal status conditions economic integration in the United States and whether neighborhood social capital moderates this relationship.

Methods: This study relies on a large probability sample of individuals residing in Los Angeles County that directly ascertains the legal status of immigrants. We employ inverse probability of treatment-weighted linear regressions to compare the labor market outcomes of undocumented immigrants to those of immigrants with varying forms of legal status and to examine how neighborhood social capital moderates the link between legal status and economic attainment.

Conclusions: We find two distinct modes of economic incorporation: one of steady work and higher wages among immigrants with citizenship status, and one of lower earnings and greater reliance on self-employment among immigrants in the country without documentation. Our results suggest that neighborhood social capital does not improve the labor market prospects of undocumented immigrants and in some cases may penalize them.

Contribution: By extending research on immigrant economic integration, this study highlights the labor market penalties experienced by undocumented immigrants, the limitations of neighborhood social capital in facilitating their integration into the American economy, and the potential value of self-employment.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Age, period, and cohort effects contributing to the Great American Migration Slowdown
Volume 45 - Article 42

Do student loans delay marriage? Debt repayment and family formation in young adulthood
Volume 30 - Article 69

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Decomposition analysis of disparities in infant mortality rates across 27 US states
Volume 50 - Article 40    | Keywords: decomposition, health disparities, infant mortality, United States of America

Immigrant mortality advantage in the United States during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic
Volume 50 - Article 7    | Keywords: COVID-19, immigrants, mortality

Early life exposure to cigarette smoking and adult and old-age male mortality: Evidence from linked US full-count census and mortality data
Volume 49 - Article 25    | Keywords: linked census and mortality data, linked census data, smoking, United States of America

Separation as an accelerator of housing inequalities: Parents’ and children’s post-separation housing careers in Sweden
Volume 49 - Article 4    | Keywords: divorce, family, housing, income inequality, neighborhood, parental separation, residential mobility, stratification

Differences in occupational homogamy by race, ethnicity, and national origin: A social mobility strategy for Asian Americans
Volume 48 - Article 18    | Keywords: assortative mating, immigrants, integration, occupation, racial/ethnic differences