American Sociological Association

Borders within Borders: The Impact of Occupational Licensing on Immigrant Incorporation

Over the past four decades, occupational regulation, particularly licensing, which creates a legal right to practice, has engulfed the American occupational structure. Occupational licensure research typically offers theoretical arguments suggesting that licensing limits individuals’ entry into an occupation. For migrants arriving with little financial capital, licensing requirements can act as substantial barriers to occupational entry. On the other hand, licensing delineates, codifies, and publicizes uniform standards for occupational entry, which may have the effect of enhancing accessibility for immigrants. Using a unique longitudinal data set of occupational licensing enactments between 1994 and 2012, combined with nationally representative data from the Current Population Survey, the authors show that licensing creates institutional mechanism that can ease access into occupations for immigrants, particularly for vulnerable immigrant labor groups, particularly for (1) those arriving as adults after the acquisition of education credentials in their countries of origin and (2) those who recently entered the country and may lack the occupational social networks necessary to find and obtain jobs and the cultural capital to follow typical informal paths to entry.


Beth Redbird and Angel Alfonso Escamilla-García





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