Immigration and Informal Labor

29 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2012

See all articles by Sarah Bohn

Sarah Bohn

Public Policy Institute of California

Emily Greene Owens

Cornell University

Date Written: October 2012


We develop state‐level proxies for informal employment using differences between measures of self‐reported employment and officially sanctioned employment. In construction and landscaping, industries associated with under‐the‐table labor, we develop proxies for informal work based on productivity per officially sanctioned worker. We relate each set of proxies for informal employment to changes in immigrant population and composition. We find some evidence that immigration is associated with informal employment generally and in the construction industry when prevailing wages are low. States with high concentrations of low‐skilled male immigrants have higher levels of informal employment in the landscaping industry.

Suggested Citation

Bohn, Sarah and Owens, Emily Greene, Immigration and Informal Labor (October 2012). Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Vol. 51, Issue 4, pp. 845-873, 2012, Available at SSRN: or

Sarah Bohn (Contact Author)

Public Policy Institute of California ( email )

500 Washington Street
Suite 800
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States

Emily Greene Owens

Cornell University ( email )

120 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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