The Citizenship Advantage: Immigrant Socioeconomic Attainment across Generations in the Age of Mass Migration. Forthcoming American Journal of Sociology

Scholars who study immigrant economic progress often point to the success of Southern and Eastern Europeans who entered in the early 20th century and draw inferences about whether today’s immigrants will follow a similar trajectory. However, little is known about the mechanisms that allowed for European upward advancement. This article begins to fill this gap by analyzing how naturalization policies influenced economic success of immigrants across generations. Specifically, I create new panel datasets that follow immigrants and their children across complete-count US censuses to understand the economic consequences of citizenship attainment. I find that naturalization raised occupational attainment for the first generation that then allowed children to have greater educational attainment and labor market success. I argue that economic progress was conditioned by political statuses for European-origin groups during the first half of the twentieth century.

Catron, Peter. 2016. “Made in America? Immigrant Occupational Mobility in the First Half of the Twentieth Century.” American Journal of Sociology 122(2) (PDF)

Assimilation research largely assumes that Southern and Eastern European immigrants Byers Cardachieved assimilation due to job ladders within manufacturing firms in the first half of the twentieth century. But this literature has never tested these claims and often acknowledges that little is known about whether Italians and Slavs experienced upward mobility. Did manufacturing allow for the upward advancement among European-origin groups? Using unique datasets containing employment histories in three manufacturing companies – A.M. Byers Company, Pullman-Standard Manufacturing, and Byers FileFord Motor Company – between 1900 and 1950, this article is
the first to analyze occupational mobility within factories among European-origin groups.
Results suggest that organizational structures within firms through the formation of internal labor markets did little to counter or prevent other forces that kept migrants from achieving upward mobility.  Migrants ended their careers within firms where they began – positions at the bottom of the occupational hierarchy – which runs contrary to assimilation research. Pictures are of employment profiles analyzed in this article.


Waldinger, Roger and Peter Catron. 2016. “Modes of Incorporation: A Conceptual and Empirical Critique.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42(1): 23-53 (PDF).


Entering the debate over segmented assimilation, this paper seeks to refocus discussion on a core, but neglected claim: that intergroup disparities among immigrant offspring derive from differences in a contextual feature shared by immigrant and immigrant descendants: a nationality’s mode of incorporation. The paper engages in both theoretical and empirical assessment. We critically examine the concept of mode of incorporation, demonstrating that its operational implications have not been correctly understood; consequently, the core hypothesis has never been appropriately tested. The second part of the paper implements those tests, making use of the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey. We do so by using nationality as a proxy for mode of incorporation, systematically contrasting more advantaged against less advantaged nationalities. We show: (a) that tests systematically varying modes classified as more or less advantageous yield inconsistent outcomes; (b) that positive or negative modes of incorporation are associated with few longlasting effects; (c) that differences in governmental reception are particularly unlikely to be associated with interethnic disparities; and (d) that compared to theoretically relevant nationalities, neither Mexicans, a nationality assigned to a negative mode of incorporation, nor pre-Mariel Cubans, a nationality assigned to positive mode of incorporation, prove distinctive.

Catron, Peter. 2013. “Comment on Rosenfeld and Kleykamp, ASR, December 2009: Immigrant Unionization through the Great Recession.” American Sociological Review 78(2): 315-332 (PDF)

Previous research has found that in recent years immigrants had a higher propensity to unionize than did native-born workers. However, little research shows that historically marginalized immigrant workers are able to maintain newly acquired union jobs, especially during times unfavorable to unionization more generally. This comment focuses on immigrant unionization during the Great Recession of 2008 to determine whether inroads that immigrants made through organizing were maintained in hostile union environments. Using the Current Population Survey (CPS), I extend Rosenfeld and Kleykamp’s (2009) models for Hispanic unionization (which end in 2007) through the recent downturn and beyond. I find that Hispanic immigrants, who held higher odds of union entry or membership in Rosenfeld and Kleykamp’s pre-recession analysis, lost union jobs at an increased rate during the Great Recession compared with native-born white workers. These effects for Hispanic immigrants filtered throughout various subcategories and control variables, including years since entry, citizenship status, and nationality. These results are likely not due to immigrants’ unfavorable labor market allocation, and to some degree undercut the hopes of those who view immigrants as the key to organized labor’s future and organized labor as the key to immigrant prosperity.