The Spatial Assimilation and Changing Income Inequalities of Mexican Farm Workers in the United States, 1980 to 2006

Eric B. Jensen, Pennsylvania State University

The demand for low-wage agricultural workers has been vital to the history of Mexican migration to the United States and continues to be an important factor in the contemporary assimilation processes of a large subset of Mexican immigrants. Mexican farm workers, similar to immigrants in other industries, are increasingly bypassing traditional gateway cities and states and settling in new destinations. This paper focuses on income inequalities among Mexican farm workers living in traditional agricultural settlement states (California and Texas) and those living in new agricultural destination states. Using data from 1980, 1990, 2000, 2005, and 2006 International Public Use Microdata Sample, I use OLS regression to model the relationship between income and destination while controlling for immigration-related and demographic characteristics. Preliminary findings suggest that Mexican farm workers living in traditional settlement areas earned higher incomes during the 1980s, but since 1990, incomes have been greater for farm workers living in new destination states.

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Presented in Session 190: Changing Patterns of Mexico-United States Migration and Return Migration