American Sociological Association

Dimensions of Inequality: Black Immigrants’ Occupational Segregation in the United States

The U.S. labor market is increasingly made up of immigrant workers, and considerable research has focused on occupational segregation as an indicator of their labor market incorporation. However, most studies focus on Hispanic populations, excluding one of the fastest growing immigrant groups: foreign-born blacks. Because of their shared race, African and Caribbean immigrants may experience the same structural barriers as U.S.-born blacks. However, researchers hypothesize that black immigrants are advantaged in the labor market relative to U.S.-born blacks because of social network hiring and less discrimination by employers. Using 2011–2015 pooled American Community Survey data, this study is among the first quantitative studies to examine black immigrants’ occupational segregation in the United States. The authors use the Duncan and Duncan Dissimilarity Index to estimate black immigrants’ segregation from U.S.-born whites and blacks and regression analyses to identify predictors of occupational segregation. Consistent with previous work focusing on Hispanic immigrants, foreign-born blacks are highly overrepresented in a few occupations. African and Caribbean immigrants experience more occupational segregation from whites than the U.S.-born, with African immigrants most segregated. Africans are also more segregated from U.S.-born blacks than Caribbean immigrants. Results of the regression analyses suggest that African immigrants are penalized rather than rewarded for educational attainment. The authors find that the size of the coethnic population and the share of coethnics who are self-employed are associated with a decline in occupational segregation. Future research is needed to determine the impact of lower occupational segregation on the income of self-employed black immigrants.


Rebbeca Tesfai and Kevin J. A. Thomas





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