Does membership have its privileges? Gender, social capital, and employment outcomes among Mexican immigrants

Gretchen M Livingston, University of Pennsylvania


There is a well-established literature pointing to the value of social capital, especially for immigrant communities. Quantitative evidence suggests that resources available through social ties allow immigrants to overcome human capital limitations and achieve economic mobility in their host country. However, most of this work has focused on male immigrants only, thus disregarding the gendered nature of migration. This dissertation presents a quantitative analysis of how social networks relate to employment outcomes for both immigrant women and men, and how, if at all, these associations may differ by gender, due either to gender differences in network composition, or gender differences in the returns to networks, controlling for network characteristics. It uses data from the Mexican Migration Project dataset (MMP71) and cross-sectional and fixed effects regressions to determine how gender mediates (1) the relationship of network characteristics and wages, (2) the relationship of network characteristics and the likelihood of using kin assistance to locate employment, and (3) how using kin to find work affects employment outcomes for Mexican migrant women and men in the U.S. Results show that the gendered process of migration itself produces significant gender differences in the composition of social networks. These gender differences in network composition do contribute to gender differences in returns to social networks, however gender differences in wage returns to social networks persist even when controlling for network characteristics. There is a much stronger positive association between networks and wages for men than for women. The strong effect for men is driven entirely by their female ties. Men are also better able than women to capitalize on their networks in order to find work. However, contrary to the conventional wisdom, there is no clear evidence that using networks to find work is associated with higher wages. So clearly it is the case that gender mediates the relationship of social networks and employment outcomes, but there is no empirical evidence that this gender effect leads to gender differentials in economic well-being among Mexican immigrants in the U.S.

Subject Area

Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Demographics

Recommended Citation

Livingston, Gretchen M, "Does membership have its privileges? Gender, social capital, and employment outcomes among Mexican immigrants" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3109199.