CSII Publications

Learning from Legalization: The Experience of IRCA-Era Mexicans in Los Angeles County

Rob Paral and Associates
June 2011

Los Angeles County has a powerful interest in understanding how immigrant populations are progressing over time and if immigrants are, indeed, integrating. One piece of integration is naturalization, which can affect the social and economic standing of immigrants, and potentially close the gap between them and native-born populations.  To understand the effect of amnesty-related policy, Rob Paral estimated the impact of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), a policy that led to the naturalization of many undocumented immigrants who had lived in the U.S. since 1982.

To examine the impact of IRCA, Paral constructed a proxy sample of Mexican immigrants residing in Los Angeles County who arrived in the 1975–1981 period. He then tracked their social and economic progress. A large portion became legalized, and subsequently improved their education, bought homes and earned more. Although gaps remain between IRCA-era immigrants and whites, there are strong signs of integration.


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