Get access

Latino Immigration and the Low-Skill Urban Labor Market: The Case of Atlanta


  • The author will share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate the study. This research was supported by the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University. The author would like to thank David Sjoquist and SSQ reviewers for helpful comments. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2010 Annual Meetings of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, Atlanta, GA.

Direct correspondence to Cathy Yang Liu, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 3992, Atlanta, GA 30303 <>.



Latino immigrants continue to enter low-skilled urban labor markets across metropolitan areas in the United States. This study provides a dynamic account of the employment competition between Latino immigrant and black workers in the context of an emerging immigrant gateway: the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area.


This study identifies occupational niches that Latino immigrants and black workers heavily concentrate for years 1990, 2000, and 2008. Occupational-level composition and wage models are also estimated to test for the impact Latino immigration might have on black workers.


Both black workers and Latino immigrant workers became increasingly concentrated in a few occupations between 1990 and 2008. While Latino immigrants have entered several historically black occupational niches, no downward pressure on the wage growth of blacks in the same occupation is observed.


As immigrants become increasingly clustered in manual-intensive craftsmen, operative, and farm occupations, blacks gravitate toward the better-paid and language-intensive sales, clerical, and service occupations, forming a segmented low-skill labor market. The reinforcement of their respective niches also tends to create closure to the other groups and intensify within-group competition.