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Soc Sci Res. 2013 Nov;42(6):1712-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2013.07.011. Epub 2013 Jul 19.

Housing and neighborhood quality among undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants.

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Department of Policy Analysis and Management and Cornell Population Center, Cornell University, United States. Electronic address:


Extensive research has documented the challenges that undocumented immigrants face in navigating U.S. labor markets, but relatively little has explored the impact of legal status on residential outcomes despite their widespread repercussions for social well-being. Using data from the 1996-2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to impute documentation status among Mexican and Central American immigrants, we examine group differences in residential outcomes, including homeownership, housing crowding, satisfaction with neighborhood and housing quality, problems with neighborhood crime/safety, governmental services, and environmental issues, and deficiencies with housing units. Results from our analysis indicate that undocumented householders are far less likely to be homeowners than documented migrants, and also live in more crowded homes, report greater structural deficiencies with their dwellings, and express greater concern about the quality of public services and environmental conditions in their neighborhoods. In comparison to native whites, undocumented migrants' residential circumstances are lacking, but their residential outcomes tend to be superior to those of native-born blacks. Overall, our results highlight the pervasive impact of legal status on stratifying Mexicans' and Central Americans' prospects for successful incorporation, but also underscore the rigidity of the black/nonblack divide structuring American residential contexts.


Housing quality; Immigration; Legal status; Neighborhood quality; Residential attainment; Undocumented migration

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