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Human Capital Traps? Enclave Effects Using Linked Employer-Household Data


  • Liliana D. Sousa


This study uses linked employer-household data to measure the impact of immigrant social networks, as identified via neighborhood and workplace affiliation, on immigrant earnings. Though ethnic enclaves can provide economic opportunities through job creation and job matching, they can also stifle the assimilation process by limiting interactions between enclave members and non-members. I find that higher residential and workplace ethnic clustering among immigrants is consistently correlated with lower earnings. For immigrants with a high school education or less, these correlations are primarily due to negative self-selection. On the other hand, self-selection fails to explain the lower earnings associated with higher ethnic clustering for immigrants with post-secondary schooling. The evidence suggests that co-ethnic clustering has no discernible effect on the earnings of immigrants with lower education, but may be leading to human capital traps for immigrants who have more than a high school education.

Suggested Citation

  • Liliana D. Sousa, 2013. "Human Capital Traps? Enclave Effects Using Linked Employer-Household Data," Working Papers 13-29, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:13-29

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Per-Anders Edin & Peter Fredriksson & Olof Åslund, 2003. "Ethnic Enclaves and the Economic Success of Immigrants—Evidence from a Natural Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 329-357.
    2. Fredrik Andersson & Mónica García-Pérez & John Haltiwanger & Kristin McCue & Seth Sanders, 2014. "Workplace Concentration of Immigrants," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(6), pages 2281-2306, December.
    3. John M. Abowd & Bryce E. Stephens & Lars Vilhuber & Fredrik Andersson & Kevin L. McKinney & Marc Roemer & Simon Woodcock, 2009. "The LEHD Infrastructure Files and the Creation of the Quarterly Workforce Indicators," NBER Chapters,in: Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data, pages 149-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Marianne Bertrand & Erzo F. P. Luttmer & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2000. "Network Effects and Welfare Cultures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 1019-1055.
    5. Patrick Bayer & Stephen L. Ross & Giorgio Topa, 2008. "Place of Work and Place of Residence: Informal Hiring Networks and Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 1150-1196, December.
    6. Philip Oreopoulos, 2011. "Why Do Skilled Immigrants Struggle in the Labor Market? A Field Experiment with Thirteen Thousand Resumes," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 148-171, November.
    7. Bayer, Patrick & McMillan, Robert & Rueben, Kim S., 2004. "What drives racial segregation? New evidence using Census microdata," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 514-535, November.
    8. Joseph G. Altonji & David Card, 1991. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcomes of Less-skilled Natives," NBER Chapters,in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 201-234 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Roberto Pedace & Stephanie Rohn Kumar, 2014. "A Warm Embrace Or The Cold Shoulder? Wage And Employment Outcomes In Ethnic Enclaves," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(1), pages 93-110, January.
    10. John M. Abowd & Francis Kramarz & David N. Margolis, 1999. "High Wage Workers and High Wage Firms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(2), pages 251-334, March.
    11. Cutler, David M. & Glaeser, Edward L. & Vigdor, Jacob L., 2008. "When are ghettos bad? Lessons from immigrant segregation in the United States," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 759-774, May.
    12. Borjas, George J, 1985. "Assimilation, Changes in Cohort Quality, and the Earnings of Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 463-489, October.
    13. Hoyt Bleakley & Aimee Chin, 2004. "Language Skills and Earnings: Evidence from Childhood Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 481-496, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:zbw:rwirep:0536 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Javdani, Mohsen & McGee, Andrew, 2013. "Intra-Firm Upward Mobility and Immigration," IZA Discussion Papers 7378, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Schaffner, Sandra & Treude, Barbara, 2014. "The Effect of Ethnic Clustering on Migrant Integration in Germany," Ruhr Economic Papers 536, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.

    More about this item


    migration; ethnic enclaves; neighborhood effects; labor market assimilation;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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