Double Disadvantage: Unauthorized Mexicans in the U.S. Labor Market

Jorge Durand, Douglas S. Massey, Karen A. Pren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


From 1988 to 2008, the United States’ undocumented population grew from 2 million to 12 million persons. It has since stabilized at around 11 million, a majority of whom are Mexican. As of this writing, some 60 percent of all Mexican immigrants in the United States are in the country illegally. This article analyzes the effect of being undocumented on sector of employment and wages earned in the United States. We show that illegal migrants are disproportionately channeled into the secondary labor market, where they experience a double disadvantage, earning systematically lower wages by virtue of working in the secondary sector and receiving an additional economic penalty because they are undocumented. Mexican immigrants, in particular, experienced a substantial decline in real wages between 1970 and 2010 attributable to their rising share of undocumented migrants in U.S. labor markets during a time when undocumented hiring was criminalized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-90
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • Mexican immigrants
  • illegal migration
  • labor markets
  • undocumented migrants
  • wages


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