Skip to main content


Mouw, Ted & Chavez, Sergio (2012). Occupational Linguistic Niches and the Wage Growth of Latino Immigrants. Social Forces, 91(2), 423-452.


Does the concentration of recent Latino immigrants into occupational linguistic niches—occupations with large numbers of other Spanish speakers—restrict their wage growth? On the one hand, it is possible that Latino immigrants who are concentrated in jobs with large numbers of Spanish speakers may have less on-the-job exposure to English, which may isolate them socially and linguistically and limit their subsequent economic mobility. On the other hand, working in linguistic niches can also be beneficial for upwardly mobile immigrants if it allows them to gain a foothold in the United States while they improve their English skills and develop labor market experience. Using data from the 1996, 2001 and 2004 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), we test for the effect of working in occupational linguistic niches on wages and wage growth. The results show that while workers in linguistic niche occupations earn lower wages on average, they do not experience lower rates of wage growth over time. Moreover, we find that about 20 percent of workers who start the 4-year SIPP panel in linguistic niches experience occupational mobility that reduces the percentage of workers speaking Spanish in their occupation by over 10 percent over the course of the study, and these “movers” have higher levels of wage growth than other workers in the sample.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Forces


Mouw, Ted
Chavez, Sergio