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Lower Wages and Continued Occupational and Industrial Segmentation of Latinos in the Chicago Economy

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posted on 06.08.2019, 00:00 by Jose Miguel Acosta-Cordova
In 1993, John Betancur, Teresa Córdova, and Maria de los Angeles Torres published “Economic Restructuring and the Process of Incorporation of Latinos into the Chicago Economy,” in Latinos in the Changing U.S. Econom,y edited by Rebecca Morales and Frank Bonilla. They concluded, “The history of the incorporation of Latino workers into the economy best explained the Latino experience in the Chicago area and provides a backdrop for understanding the impact of restructuring (110).” The authors argue that “the condition of ascriptive low-wage labor” restricted the mobility options for the Latino work force in the region. Examining PUM census data for the Chicago metro area from 1950 – 1980 on labor force participation, the study demonstrated that Latino labor, composed primarily of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, facilitated the growth of the service sector in the Chicago economy while continuing to further entrench the segmentation of Latino labor in low-wage service sector employment.   The Latino population in the city has grown significantly since the Betancur et al. study (Cervantes, 1996; Suro, 2002; Paral et. al., 2004; Acosta-Córdova, 2017). However, no recent study has examined the industrial and occupational mobility of Latinos to the same extent as Betancur, et. al. Given the demographic growth of Latinos in Chicago and the continued changes in the Chicago economy, this study provides an update of the Betancur et. al. study to examine the changes taking place between 1980 and 2016 and to determine the extent of economic mobility for Latinos in Chicago. Using updated PUM census data, this thesis seeks to determine whether, since 1980, we continue to see what they described as the “continuation of occupational and industrial segmentation and lower wages” among Latinos in Chicago and how their labor force status affects policies and perspectives towards Latinos in the Chicago area.   This thesis finds that despite progress for Latinos in several industries and occupations, they tend to be segmented into jobs and industries with the lowest-wages. While African-Americans and Latinos both displayed similar conditions in most of the categories, Latinos had lower wages in more industries and occupations than any other group in Chicago.



Betancur, John J


Betancur, John J


Urban Planning and Policy

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Committee Member

Theodore, Nik Bada, Xochitl Imeokparia, Tim

Submitted date

May 2019

Issue date


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