Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Skills of the "Unskilled"

Skills of the "Unskilled": Work and Mobility among Mexican Migrants

Jacqueline Maria Hagan
Rubén Hernández-León
Jean-Luc Demonsant
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Skills of the "Unskilled"
    Book Description:

    Most labor and migration studies classify migrants with limited formal education or credentials as "unskilled." Despite the value of migrants' work experiences and the substantial technical and interpersonal skills developed throughout their lives, the labor-market contributions of these migrants are often overlooked and their mobility pathways poorly understood.Skills of the"Unskilled"reports the findings of a five-year study that draws on research including interviews with 320 Mexican migrants and return migrants in North Carolina and Guanajuato, Mexico. The authors uncover these migrants' lifelong human capital and identify mobility pathways associated with the acquisition and transfer of skills across the migratory circuit, including reskilling, occupational mobility, job jumping, and entrepreneurship.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95950-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Who Are the “Unskilled,” Really?
    (pp. 1-43)

    Rafael was born in Leon, a large industrial city with a population of over one million in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, known primarily for its leather, footwear, and textile industries.¹ Typical of many young men in the area, Rafael left school at age 15 and found an entry-level position in a manufacturing firm that produces men’s clothing. Through observation and informal training from coworkers, he learned to operate and repair the industrial sewing machines that stitch men’s garments. Rafael readily transferred these technical skills to his second job in Leon, where he also worked as a machinist, this time...

  5. 2 Learning Skills in Communities of Origin
    (pp. 44-72)

    We left at noon on Saturday forEl Coecillo,the Leon neighborhood where the vast majority of manufacturers of shoes and other leather goods in the city are located. As we wound through the narrow streets of the city’s leather district and observed men laboring on antique industrial sewing machines, we recalled old photographs from New York City’s garment industry at the turn of the twentieth century.¹ Walking throughEl Coecillo,we watched men hunched over machines making girls’ shoes and women stitching the colorful fl owers that would adorn the front of the shoes. We saw teams of workers...

  6. 3 Mobilizing Skills and Migrating
    (pp. 73-97)

    Mexican migration to the United States has been historically a rural phenomenon. Throughout most of the twentieth century, small farmers and peasants migrated to supplement their incomes, diversify risk, and accumulate capital.¹ In contrast, Mexican urbanites, such as those we surveyed in Leon, are relative newcomers to the binational labor market. They began migrating to the United States in the 1970s, utilizing social ties that connected them through internal migration to formerbraceros² and undocumented migrants with U.S. experience, who in turn facilitated the early sojourns of city dwellers abroad.

    During the 1980s and 1990s, the restructuring and liberalization of...

  7. 4 Transferring Skills, Reskilling, and Laboring in the United States
    (pp. 98-143)

    Francisco learned the fundamentals of masonry as a young boy. His father was a well-establishedmaestro albañil(master mason) in Leon, and from him Francisco learned the craft of adobe construction, how to mold and dry clay for bricks, and how to cut and lay brick and stone by hand. In the United States, Francisco was able to apply his masonry skills to a different type of job: a friend and established immigrant from Leon found him an entrylevel position in a manufacturing company that makes airplane parts in Ohio. Though the production relies on advanced technology for molding rubber...

  8. 5 Returning Home and Reintegrating into the Local Labor Market
    (pp. 144-190)

    Enrique emigrated with an uncle as a teenager, making the overland journey from Mexico to San Francisco where they joined another uncle and his family. Before leaving Leon, Enrique was attending a local primary school and working evenings and weekends in his father’spiquita,the family-owned and -operated shoe-manufacturing firm located on the second floor of his family’s home. After graduating from high school in the United States at the age of 19, he found work in an Anglo-owned and -run Mexican restaurant. Because of his Spanish and English language skills, he quickly moved up the ladder from busboy to...

  9. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 191-216)

    Having traveled to the United States eight times, Ricardo is one of the more seasoned migrants in our study. Prior to migration he had labored on the family farm, but during his many sojourns abroad he worked in various cities and jobs—as a gardener in Arizona, a roofer in Minnesota, and a farmhand in Texas, where he was able to apply farming skills learned in Mexico. In his last job, which he held for four years, he worked as an assistant cook in a Chinese restaurant in Chicago. Like many of the migrants in our study he loved his...

    (pp. 217-250)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 251-270)
    (pp. 271-294)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 295-300)