Working on the margins in metropolitan Los Angeles: Immigrants in day-labor work.

Valenzuela Jr, Abel.

Migraciones internacionales 1, no. 2 (2002): 6-28.


This article explores disadvantage theory for understanding the participation of Latino immigrants in day labor. Data from 481 randomly surveyed day workers at 87 hiring sites throughout Metropolitan Los Angeles make possible an examination of key demographic and labor market characteristics of this self-employed occupation. Even though the overwhelming majority of day laborers are recently arrived and unauthorized immigrants, not all are desperate, as disadvantage theory would have us believe. Day laborers are diverse in terms of their family structure, recency of arrival, tenure in day work, and human capital. Despite this diversity, lack of human capital and other characteristics generally handicap day laborers in their search for stable, better paying occupations in the non-day-labor market. Earnings among day laborers are mixed, hourly rates are higher than federal or state minimum-wage ceilings, bargaining is commonplace and advantageous to the worker, and wages are paid in cash and untaxed. However, these advantages are offset by unstable work patterns. For a minority of day laborers, this market provides an alternative to other forms of low-skilled, and irregular employment.

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