Do Immigrants Work in Riskier Jobs?

Pia Orrenius, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Madeline Zavodny, Agnes Scott College

Media and government reports suggest that immigrants hold jobs with worse working conditions than U.S.-born workers, perhaps because immigrants work in jobs that “natives don’t want.” This study investigates whether the foreign-born are more likely to hold jobs with higher industry and occupation injury and fatality rates. We combine individual-level data from the 2003-2005 American Community Survey with Bureau of Labor Statistics data on work-related injuries and fatalities to measure whether immigrants work in more dangerous industries and occupations than natives. The results indicate that immigrants are more likely to work in risky jobs than U.S.-born workers. Differences in average characteristics, such as immigrants’ lower English language ability and educational attainment, contribute to their overrepresentation in risky jobs. Given the role of English ability in the sorting of workers into risky jobs, our findings suggest the importance of providing safety training in languages other than English.

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Presented in Session 146: Immigration, the Labor Force, and Inequality