Original URL: http://regulus.azstarnet.com/hourlyupdate/story.php?id=1

New Hispanic immigrant men drove down other workers’ wages, study says

The Associated Press-- August 19, 2003

LOS ANGELES — Men working blue-collar and service jobs in 15 states tended to earn lower pay when they were employed alongside newly arrived Hispanic immigrant men because the new arrivals were often paid less, driving down the wages for all, according to a UCLA study.

The UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center study released Monday analyzed 1990 Census data on male workers in 38 U.S. metropolitan areas. It found that men — both native and established immigrants — earned an average of 11 percent less than others in comparable low-level service and manual labor jobs when they worked with Hispanic newcomers.

Minority workers in those jobs earned an average of 14 percent less. And the higher the proportion of newly arrived Hispanic men, the less money the other workers tended to make, the study said.

The study results reflect only the period of time the data were collected. The same type of data from the 2000 Census has not been released yet, said Lisa Catanzarite, the senior research sociologist who conducted the study.

“These findings push us to understand that wage penalties in ’brown-collar’ occupations stem from newcomer Latinos’ marginal status, and not from immigration, per se,” Catanzarite said.

Employers’ attitudes and immigrants’ status when they first come to the United States are to blame for the disparity in wages in some jobs, she said.

Many employers devalue certain jobs where Hispanic immigrants are overrepresented, such as landscaping, construction, farm labor, groundskeeping and painting, and pay less. And immigrants are unable to resist low wages and have little political power to demand proper pay, so they end up working for less, Catanzarite said.

“The point is, if you have a vulnerable group, when they’re exploited, then that can push down wages for everybody,” she said. “Somewhat paradoxically, policies to combat pay penalties for native-born workers necessarily involve improving the status of immigrants.”

The study recommends expanding worker protections for the immigrants, enforcing minimum wage standards and extending amnesty.

Catanzarite said people should not infer from the study that immigrant labor hurts American workers.

“The findings don’t suggest that immigration overall is hurting native-born workers,” she said. “Some of these jobs wouldn’t even exist if those immigrants weren’t here.”

Among the metropolitan areas tracked in the study were the cities of Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Boston, Las Vegas, Dallas and Washington.