Book by Hernández-León wins recognition of his peers

“Skills of the ‘Unskilled': Work and Mobility among Mexican Migrants” is the co-winner of the 2016 book award of the Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Section of the American Sociological Association.

Book by Hernández-León wins recognition of his peers

UCLA sociologist Rubén Hernández-León. (Photo: Peggy McInerny/UCLA.)

By Peggy McInerny, Director of Communications

“This is an important book that is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the interconnection between international migration, social mobility, and work skills.” Joachim Singelmann in Social Focus (94, no. 4),

UCLA International Institute, June 24, 2016 — The most recent book of Rubén Hernández-León, “Skills of the ‘Unskilled’: Work and Mobility among Mexican Migrants” (with Jacqueline Hagan and Jean-Luc Demonsant / University of California), is the co-winner of the 2016 book award of the Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility (IPM) Section of the American Sociological Association (ASA). Hernández-León, director of the Center for Mexican Studies and professor of sociology at UCLA, will receive the award with his co-authors at the annual ASA conference in Seattle, to be held August 20–23.

The IPM Section brings together ASA sociologists who share a research interest in the topics of inequality, poverty, and mobility. The group fosters research and disseminates knowledge on the distribution of material and nonmaterial resources, as well as the economic, social, and cultural forces that generate and perpetuate unequal distributions of these resources.

“Skills of the ‘Unskilled’” was first published in March 2015 and has received excellent reviews in relevant scholarly journals. Based on a five-year study that encompassed interviews with 50 Mexican immigrant construction workers in the United States, as well as with 79 workers who returned from the United States to Mexico, plus a survey of 200 “return migrants” in the town of León, Mexico, the book traces the human capital formation of migrant workers over time, concluding that many so-called “unskilled” immigrant workers develop valuable skills that prove highly marketable upon their return to Mexico.

Joachim Singelmann, writing in the journal Social Forces (94, no. 4), contends, “This is an important book that is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the interconnection between international migration, social mobility, and work skills.”

Roberto G. Gonzales in American Journal of Sociology (121, no. 6) writes, “Through several sources of data the authors show that migrants engage in a lifelong skills-building process that begins at an early age, while they are still in Mexico. Migrants bring with them to the United States an eagerness to learn and a capacity that increases their abilities to earn. Ultimately, they mobilize these skills in preparation for U.S. jobs. Once they are in the United States—as they encounter new technologies, interact with other workers, and begin to solve problems in their places of work—they develop new skills while sharpening others.”

“Policymakers and advocates alike would benefit from the deep analysis of labor migration that “Skills of the ‘Unskilled”’provides,” says Jennifer A. Jones in a review in the International Migration Review (Fall 2016 — available online). “Its detailed exploration of migrant trajectories using a mixed-method design of exploratory fieldwork, survey research, and case studies of Guanajuato and North Carolina makes ‘Skills of the “Unskilled” a rich study of immigrant mobility for any student or scholar of economic migration.”

The UCLA International Institute congratulates Professor Hernández-León on the IPM book award and wishes him much continued success.