State-Level Enforcement of Unauthorized Migration and Self-Employment among Mexican Immigrant Men, 2005-2009

James D. Bachmeier, University of California, Irvine
Mark A. Leach, Pennsylvania State University
Frank D. Bean, University of California, Irvine

We uses a survey-based equation to assign probable legal status to immigrants in the 2005-2009 American Community Surveys (ACS). We then examine the respective effects of the recession and state-level immigration enforcement measures on participation in the informal economy among Mexican immigrant men, as well as how these effects vary depending on citizenship and immigration status. Participation in the informal economy increased among Mexican immigrants nationwide, and increases were especially sharp among the unauthorized after the start of the recession. Beyond the recession effects on the prevalence of self-employment, states implementing policies aimed at restricting access to the formal labor market among unauthorized immigrants (namely, Arizona), saw especially steep increases in self-employment. While these increases were concentrated among the unauthorized in Arizona, it appears that the state’s restrictive policies may also have pushed Mexican-born legal residents into the informal sector. We conclude by discussing the policy implications of the findings.

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Presented in Session 122: Economic Change and Migration to and within the United States