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Disparities in work, risk and health between immigrants and native-born Spaniards


  • Solé, Meritxell
  • Diaz-Serrano, Luis
  • Rodríguez, Marisol


The probability of acquiring a permanent disability is partly determined by working and contractual conditions, particularly exposure to job risks. We postulate a model in which this impact is mediated by the choice of occupation, with a level of risk associated with it. We assume this choice is endogenous and that it depends on preferences and opportunities in the labour market, both of which may differ between immigrants and natives. To test this hypothesis we apply a bivariate probit model, in which we control for personal and firm characteristics, to data for 2006 from the Continuous Sample of Working Lives provided by the Spanish Social Security system, containing records for over a million workers. We find that risk exposure increases the probability of permanent disability – arising from any cause – by almost 5%. Temporary employment and low-skilled jobs also have a positive impact. Increases in education reduce the likelihood of disability, even after controlling for the impact of education on the choice of (lower) risk. Females have a greater probability of becoming disabled. Migrant status – with differences among regions of origin – significantly affects both disability and the probability of being employed in a high-risk occupation. In spite of immigrants' working conditions being objectively worse, they exhibit a lower probability of becoming disabled than natives because the impact of such conditions on disability is much smaller in their case. Time elapsed since first enrolment in the Social Security system increases the probability of disability in a proportion similar to that of natives, which is consistent with the immigrant assimilation hypothesis. We finally conclude that our theoretical hypothesis that disability and risk are jointly determined is only valid for natives and not valid for immigrants, in the sense that, for them, working conditions are not a matter of choice in terms of health.

Suggested Citation

  • Solé, Meritxell & Diaz-Serrano, Luis & Rodríguez, Marisol, 2013. "Disparities in work, risk and health between immigrants and native-born Spaniards," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 179-187.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:76:y:2013:i:c:p:179-187 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.10.022

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    References listed on IDEAS

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