The objective of this study was to conduct a quantitative analysis of the factors affecting the economic integration of Mexican immigrants in 1990. The methodology involved a cross-sectional quantitative analysis of data from the 1990 Panel Study of Income Dynamics/Latino National Political Survey (PSID/LNPS). A comparative analysis was conducted at three levels: (a) working-age men vs. working-age women, (b) immigrants vs. U.S.-born individuals, and (c) individual earnings vs. household income outcomes. The core of the research involved linear regression analyses. Specifically, the measure of integration used was annual earnings (dependent variable). Four separate analyses were conducted for men, women, households, and a supplementary analysis on a subsample of respondents. The main findings showed that, overall, Mexican immigrants in 1990 received low returns to human capital and that the variables that were the main predictors of economic success were language fluency and citizenship status. However, the process of economic integration differed significantly for natives and immigrants.


Separate analyses for immigrant and native-born men showed that the predictors of earning operated differently for each group. Education, metropolitan residence, and occupation explained the earnings of U.S.-born men. The variables that were important for immigrants were industrial sector and recency of immigration. Marital status, region of residence, and union membership all had an impact on both groups, but to varying degrees.


Consistent with previous research, the earnings of foreign-born and native women did not differ significantly based on the earnings model.


The assumption that the presence of a spouse and extended family members compensates for the earnings differential between native and immigrant male heads was only partially supported.


The last part of the analyses incorporated two additional variables in the earnings model: language fluency and citizenship status. The findings showed that these variables are the most influential in determining the earnings of Mexican men, and to a lesser degree those of women. Labor market status, namely occupation and union membership, were important factors in the economic outcome of Mexican men, but language fluency and citizenship status had an independent effect that significantly improved earnings. For women, language fluency was important, but citizenship did not significantly explain the earnings variations between immigrant and native-born women (although the sample size of female citizens was very small). Clearly, the reasons for immigrating to, and plans to remain in, the United States by Mexican immigrants were closely related to economic determinants. Mexican immigrants demonstrated a high level of motivation to improve their situation and reflecting a potential responsiveness to policy intervention that would effectively help ease their integration.


Padilla, Yolanda C. and Jennifer Glick. (2000). Variations in the Process of Earnings Attainment among Mexican Immigrants and Natives. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 22 (2), 179-193.

Padilla, Yolanda C. (1998). Considering the Explanations for the Poor Labor Market Outcomes of Mexican Immigrants. Reflexiones 1997: New Directions in Mexican American Studies (Annual Review of the Center for Mexican American Studies, University of Texas at Austin), 1, 109-132.

Padilla, Yolanda C. (1997). Immigrant Policy: Issues for Social Work Practice. Social Work, 42 (6), 595-606.

Social Science Research Council and the Inter-University Program for Latino Research
Faculty Research Award, The University of Texas at Austin