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Do as the Neighbors Do: The Impact of Social Networks on Immigrant Employment

  • Andersson, Fredrik


    (Lund University)

  • Burgess, Simon


    (University of Bristol)

  • Lane, Julia


    (New York University)

Substantial immigrant segregation in the United States, combined with the increase in the share of the U.S. foreign-born population, have led to great interest in the causes and consequences of immigrant concentration, including those related to the functioning of labor markets. This paper provides robust evidence that both the size and the quality of an immigrant enclave affects the labor market outcomes of new immigrants. We develop new measures of the quality, or information value, of immigrant networks by exploiting data based on worker earnings records matched to firm and Census information. We demonstrate the importance of immigrant employment links: network members are much more likely than other immigrants to be employed in the same firm as their geographic neighbors. Immigrants living with large numbers of employed neighbors are more likely to have jobs than immigrants in areas with fewer employed neighbors. The effects are quantitatively important and robust under alternative specifications. For example, in a high value network – one with an average employment rate in the 90th percentile – a one standard deviation increase in the log of the number of contacts in the network is associated with almost a 5% increase in the employment rate. Earnings, conditional on employment, increase by about 0.7%.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4423.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4423
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  1. Zenou, Yves, 2008. "Social Interactions and Labor Market Outcomes in Cities," IZA Discussion Papers 3283, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Åslund, Olof & Edin, Per-Anders & Fredriksson, Peter, 2001. "Ethnic Enclaves and the Economic Success of Immigrants - Evidence from a Natural Experiment," CEPR Discussion Papers 2729, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. B.R. Chiswick & P.W. Miller, 2000. "Do Enclaves Matter in Immigrant Adjustment?," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 00-19, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. Damm, Anna Piil, 2006. "Ethnic Enclaves and Immigrant Labour Market Outcomes: Quasi-Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 06-4, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
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  7. Vigdor, Jacob & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2008. "When Are Ghettos Bad? Lessons from Immigrant Segregation In the United States," Scholarly Articles 2666726, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Yannis M. Ioannides & Linda Datcher Loury, 2004. "Job Information Networks, Neighborhood Effects, and Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1056-1093, December.
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  14. Antoni Calvó-Armengol & Matthew O. Jackson, 2004. "The Effects of Social Networks on Employment and Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 426-454, June.
  15. Edward P. Lazear, 1995. "Culture and Language," NBER Working Papers 5249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Patel, Krishna & Vella, Francis, 2007. "Immigrant Networks and Their Implications for Occupational Choice and Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 3217, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Martin Nordin & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2007. "The Income Gap Between Natives and Second Generation Immigrants in Sweden: Is Skill the Explanation?," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0706, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  18. Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul W, 1995. "The Endogeneity between Language and Earnings: International Analyses," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 246-88, April.
  19. George J. Borjas, 2006. "Making it in America: Social Mobility in the Immigrant Population," NBER Working Papers 12088, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser, 1997. "Are Ghettos Good or Bad?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 827-872.
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