Jackie Hagan’s recently published Skills of the “Unskilled”: Work and Mobility among Mexican Migrants (University of California Press) is the culmination of five years of research in the US and Mexico. Her study traces the lives of 320 Mexican migrants and return migrants in North Carolina and Guanajuato, Mexico.
Hagan and her co-authors – Ruben Hernandez-Leon and Jean-Luc Demonsan – note that 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. 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.
Jackie returned to Mexico this past summer to conduct follow-up interviews with UNC graduate and undergraduate students to follow the lives of migrants documenting patterns of business formation, employment, and wages.. Her research team included Josh Wassink (UNC grad student), Sergio Chavez (former UNC post-doc), Andrea Perdoma and Brianna Castro (UNC undergraduates).
Jackie Hagan is the Robert G. Parr Distinguished Term Professor of Sociology and a Fellow of the Carolina Population Center at UNC. Prior publications include Deciding to be Legal (1994) and Migration Miracle (2008).