Working on the Margins: Immigrant Day Labor Characteristics and Prospects for Employment (Working Paper #22)
Abel Valenzuela, Jr., University of California – Los Angeles
Summary: This article presents for the first time findings from the Day Labor Survey. Drawing upon 481 randomly surveyed immigrant day workers at 87 hiring sites throughout Southern California, I examine key demographic, social, and labor market characteristics of this burgeoning informal market. The findings suggest that not all day laborers are desperate, bottom of the barrel, recently arrived job seekers. Day laborers are diverse in family structure, recency of arrival, tenure in day work, and human capital. Earnings among day laborers are mixed; hourly rates are higher than federal or state minimum wage ceilings, however this advantage is clearly offset by unstable work patterns. These findings suggest that for a significant number of immigrant day laborers, work in this informal market may be an alternative to work in the low-skill, formal labor market.