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Occupational Trajectories of Legal US Immigrants: Downgrading and Recovery

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Data from the New Immigrant Survey 2003 are examined to analyze trajectories in occupational prestige between the last job abroad and the first US job and from the first US job to the current US job for a select sample of men and women. Incorporating the first job in the United States overcomes an important limitation faced by many previous studies that were generally restricted to a comparison of the last job abroad and the US job as measured at the time of the survey. Distinctions are made between class-of-admission groups, since the trajectories toward labor market success vary systematically along that dimension. Consistent with a model of immigrant occupational assimilation, all preference groups show a U-shaped adjustment pattern with, on average, initial downgrading followed by subsequent ascension. However, although all groups exhibit a similar pattern, the trough of the U is deepest for refugees, who also experience the steepest subsequent upward climb.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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