PSU McNair Scholars Online Journal


Foreign workers -- United States, Mexicans -- Employment -- United States


Scholarly research on labor markets and immigration is extensive, yet narrowly conceived. Labor economists have focused on the examination of the effect of immigration on the labor market for native workers. However, the labor market experiences of undocumented immigrant workers, the workings of informal labor markets, particularly in urban areas, and consequences for informal workers remain virtually unexplored. To better understand the interactions between work and worker, this study focuses on the structure of informal labor markets for immigrant workers. This analysis is based on a series of qualitative interviews of undocumented restaurant workers in Portland, OR. This paper begins by discussing the current understanding of informality in labor markets in industrialized cities. Theoretical limitations of the common perception of informality are addressed and proposals presented for increased theoretical specificity, which generates several working hypotheses as to the dynamics of informal urban labor markets. These hypotheses are analyzed using case-study methodology examining the restaurant industry in Portland, OR and Mexican immigration to Oregon based on a series of interviews. The paper concludes with findings and suggestions for future research.

Faculty Mentor: Leopoldo Rodriguez



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