Lettuce, segmented labor markets, and the immigration discourse

Kathleen C. Schwartzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


It would seem to be ridiculously obvious that industries in the South employed an African American labor force. However, the hegemony of the immigration discourse-"they take jobs that nobody wants"-indicates the need to reiterate some historical facts. Do immigrants take jobs that nobody wants? The author reviews the assumptions of media reports and advocacy groups regarding labor market niches of immigrants. They portray a labor force that is immutably segmented into a primary and secondary sector. This notion is inconsistent with (a) early work theorizing a shifting labor market frontier, (b) earlier empirical work analyzing fluctuating boundaries, and (c) the contemporary labor market that exhibits decreasing segmentation. The author examines the poultry industry in five Southeastern states from 1980 to 2000. Although those jobs fit the profile of the secondary sector (that "nobody wants"), a decade earlier they were occupied by African Americans. We must revise the immigration debate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-156
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Black Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • African American workers
  • Immigrant workers
  • Labor substitution
  • South

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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