Starting Points: Divergent Trajectories of Labor Market Integration among U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents

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18 Scopus citations


Legal status is a growing dimension of inequality among immigrants in the U.S. Scholars have suggested that the legal status with which immigrants enter the country stratifies their short- and long-term opportunities for labor market integration. However, much quantitative immigration scholarship modeling the relationship between legal status and labor market integration treats legal status as static. In reality, immigrants change statuses dynamically throughout their lives. This article uses a dynamic conceptualization of legal status, as well as nationally representative data and regression and propensity score weighting techniques, to examine whether five initial legal statuses are associated with divergent labor market trajectories even after those statuses change. I find that initial legal statuses - which I refer to as starting points - are associated with ordered differences in immigrants' occupational positions immediately after immigrants change status to lawful permanent residence. These differences persist over time. Five years after all immigrants share lawful permanent residence, employment visa holders maintain more prestigious jobs; immigrants with family reunification and diversity status are in the middle; and immigrants with refugee status and undocumented experience have less prestigious jobs. This article demonstrates aggregate, longitudinal patterns of stratification among a nationally representative sample of permanent residents. The findings suggest the importance of modeling legal status as a dynamic rather than static category to reflect the continued influence of legal status starting points on immigrants' labor market integration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)847-882
Number of pages36
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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