The Partner's Role in Immigrants' Labor Market Outcomes: Explaining the Mechanism

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 9:15 AM
Room: Booth 42
Oral Presentation
Verena SEIBEL , Humboldt University, Germany
This paper explores why and how partnership impacts labor market outcomes of immigrants over the life course. Drawing on household specialization and social capital theory I first state hypotheses about whether and to what extend a higher educated and/or native spouse has a positive impact on immigrant occupational outcomes.  I then explore the specific resources spouses provide differentiating between instrumental support and emotional support. Instrumental support refers to the provision of labor market information, ability to employ own spouse and help with the application writing. Emotional support implies willingness to discuss important matters and encouragement of the spouse’s career. These forms of social capital have been linked to occupational outcomes only theoretically and, mainly due to lack of data, not empirically.

I first hypothesize that partnership with a native and/or higher educated spouse has a direct positive effect on occupational outcomes due to their higher ability to provide those resources. Secondly, I assume that instrumental support has a stronger positive effect on occupational outcomes than emotional support. Lastly, I argue that partnership also has an indirect effect on occupational outcomes by facilitating important immigrant-specific processes such as recognition of foreign credentials and post-migration investment into education.

To test my hypotheses I use novel data from the German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) which provides detailed biographical information about migration, education, occupation and family formation, thereby allowing for causal inference.  First results show that partnership increases the likelihood of post-migration investment in education, however, only if the partner holds at least higher secondary education. Also, having a native spouse who is highly educated provides the most labor market related resources in terms of information, reference and help with application writing compared to lower educated and co-ethnic spouses. Education and social resources then both positively affect occupational status.