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Immigrant Niche Work

Thursday, February 16, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating look at how immigrant groups develop and expand niche work fields, from Brazilian housecleaning in Boston to Nigerian security guards in Houston. Excerpts from the subscription only article:

Brazilians have promoted an unusual system for buying and selling domestic services. Central to the model are specific “routes” comprised of individual houses and cleaners that are grown and tightly managed — often by a single family. In recent years, as the demand for housecleaning work has soared, these routes or “schedules” have become particularly valuable, and are commonly traded like commodities….

Other examples of so-called middle-skillers targeting specific niches include Filipinos, who dominate civil-service jobs in West Coast locations such as San Francisco and Seattle; and Jamaicans, who have cornered similar niches in such Eastern cities as New York and Miami. Immigrants from Nigeria have found security-guard work in Houston.

I recall James Fallows writing about a similar pattern among, I think, Guatamalens who ended up cleaning grocery stores –also in Houston?– but can’t recall where he made the observation.

If anyone knows of similar simmigrant niche fields, please send me a note at What do the Somalis of the Twin Cities specialize in, for example?

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