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The impact of Mexican immigrants on U.S. wage structure

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  • Maude Toussaint-Comeau
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    Abstract

    Previous study by Card and Lewis (2005) has found (puzzling) that inflows of Mexican immigrants into “new” metropolitan areas have had no effect on the relative wages of very low-skill (high school dropouts). Rather, Mexican workers do affect relative wages for high school graduates. Whereas Card and Lewis’ study uses variations across geographies, this paper considers variations across occupations. Recognizing that Mexican immigrants are highly occupationally clustered (disproportionately work in distinctive “very low wage” occupations), we use this fact to motivate the empirical approach to analyze the relationship between the composition of Mexican immigrants across occupations/industries and average wages in the occupations/industries. To summarize our finding, we confirm that in spite of the fact that Mexican immigrants are disproportionately in “very low skill” occupations, (which we define as occupations where the average workers have no high school education), we find no significant impact of Mexican immigrants on wages in those occupations. By contrast, inflows of Mexican immigrants have some small effects on the wages of native workers in “low skill” occupations (which we define as occupations where the average worker has at least some high school education or is a high school graduate). These results suggest potential “spill over effects” as natives may be reallocating their labor supply into non-predominant Mexican occupations. An analysis of employment changes of natives into different occupation groupings in response to an inflow of Mexican immigrants, confirms that natives’ employment in occupations where the average worker has a high school education increases in response to Mexican inflows in the U.S labor force from previous periods.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-07-24.

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    Date of creation: 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-07-24

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    Keywords: Immigrants ; Wages;

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    References

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    1. Orrenius, Pia M. & Zavodny, Madeline, 2007. "Does immigration affect wages? A look at occupation-level evidence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 757-773, October.
    2. Friedberg, Rachel M, 2000. "You Can't Take It with You? Immigrant Assimilation and the Portability of Human Capital," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 221-51, April.
    3. Borjas, G.J. & Freeman, R.B. & Katz, L.F., 1991. "On The Labor Market Effects Of Immigration And Trade," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1556, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    4. Chiswick, Carmel U. & Chiswick, Barry R. & Karras, Georgios, 1992. "The impact of immigrants on the macroeconomy," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 279-316, December.
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    6. Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri, 2005. "Rethinking the Gains from Immigration: Theory and Evidence from the U.S," NBER Working Papers 11672, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The Skill Content Of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1279-1333, November.
    8. David Card, 2005. "Is the New Immigration Really So Bad?," NBER Working Papers 11547, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Card, David, 2001. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 22-64, January.
    10. Joseph G. Altonji & David Card, 1991. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcomes of Less-skilled Natives," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade and the Labor Market, pages 201-234 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Freeman & Kevin Lang, 1991. "Undocumented Mexican-born Workers in the United States: How Many, How Permanent?," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade and the Labor Market, pages 77-100 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Giovanni Peri & Chad Sparber, 2007. "Task Specialization, Comparative Advantages, and the Effects of Immigration on Wages," NBER Working Papers 13389, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. David Card, 1990. "The impact of the Mariel boatlift on the Miami labor market," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(2), pages 245-257, January.
    14. Ethan Lewis, 2003. "Local, open economies within the U.S.: how do industries respond to immigration?," Working Papers 04-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    15. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
    16. Sicherman, Nachum & Galor, Oded, 1990. "A Theory of Career Mobility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(1), pages 169-92, February.
    17. LaLonde, Robert J & Topel, Robert H, 1991. "Immigrants in the American Labor Market: Quality, Assimilation, and Distributional Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 297-302, May.
    18. Rachel M. Friedberg, 2001. "The Impact Of Mass Migration On The Israeli Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1373-1408, November.
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    20. John M. Abowd & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Immigration, Trade and the Labor Market," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abow91-1.
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