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Native-immigrant occupational segregation and worker health in the United States, 2004–2014

Wen Fan and Yue Qian

Social Science & Medicine, 2017, vol. 183, issue C, 130-141

Abstract: Immigrant workers are a growing share of the U.S. labor force and are overrepresented in certain occupations. This much is well documented, yet few studies have examined the consequences of this division of labor between foreign-born and native-born workers. This research focuses on one of the consequences of occupational segregation—worker health. We merge data from the 2004–2014 National Health Interview Surveys with occupational-level data from the Occupational Information Network 20.1 database and the American Community Surveys to examine the relationship between occupational segregation and health. First, logistic regression models show that working in an occupation with a higher share of immigrants is associated with higher odds of poor physical and psychological health. This relationship is more pronounced among native-born workers than among foreign-born workers. Second, we propose two explanations for the association between occupational segregation and health: (1) workers with less human capital are typically sorted into culturally devalued occupations with a higher concentration of immigrants, and (2) occupations with a higher percentage of immigrants generally have relatively poor work environments. We find sorting variables play a major role, whereas the smaller contribution of occupational environments to the segregation-health link is partly because of the heterogeneous (i.e., both positive and negative) indirect effects of different exposure measures. With the sustained high levels of immigration to the United States, the implications of integrated or segregated experiences in the labor market and their impact on workers are important avenues for health policies and future research.

Keywords: US; Occupational segregation; Immigrants; Self-reported health; Psychological distress (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.04.029

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