Immigration and the Politics of Skill

N. Iskander and N. Lowe
Oxford University Press , The New Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography. G. Clark, M. Feldman, M. Gertler, and D. Wójcik eds. Oxford University Press.

Skill has played a central role in immigration scholarship, most notably in a protracted debate over whether ‘unskilled’ immigrants threaten job security for less or moderately educated native-born workers. In recent years, scholars have re-examined whether immigrant workers, particularly those with limited formal education, are unskilled. Extending this further, the chapter argues that immigrants are not simply individuals that possess, acquire, and apply their skill. Immigrants are also contributors to collective learning processes through which industry skills are developed, replenished, and recombined overtime. But immigrants are especially vulnerable to skill misclassification because they lack access to institutions that can protect and defend spaces for collective learning. Considering immigrant skill reproduction in the absence of institutional protections allows us to reflect on the role those institutions play in shaping the politics of skill—a role that can be strengthened as part of a growing movement in support of low-wage workers more generally.

Wagner Faculty