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Low-Skilled Immigrants and the U.S. Labor Market

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Author Info

  • Duncan, Brian

    ()
    (University of Colorado Denver)

  • Trejo, Stephen

    ()
    (University of Texas at Austin)

Abstract

Over the last several decades, two of the most significant developments in the U.S. labor market have been: (1) rising inequality, and (2) growth in both the size and the diversity of immigration flows. Because a large share of new immigrants arrive with very low levels of schooling, English proficiency, and other skills that have become increasingly important determinants of success in the U.S. labor market, an obvious concern is that such immigrants are a poor fit for the restructured American economy. In this chapter, we evaluate this concern by discussing evidence for the United States on three relevant topics: the labor market integration of immigrants, the socioeconomic attainment of the U.S.-born descendants of immigrants, and the impact of immigration on the wages and employment opportunities of native workers. We show that low-skilled immigrants have little trouble finding paid employment and that the wages they earn are commensurate with their skills. Overall, the U.S.-born second generation has achieved economic parity with mainstream society; for some Hispanic groups, however, this is not the case. Finally, we survey the pertinent academic literature and conclude that, on the whole, immigration to the United States has not had large adverse consequences for the labor market opportunities of native workers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5964.

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Length: 68 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as "The Employment of Low-Skilled Immigrant Men in the United States" in: American Economic Review, 2012, 102(3), 549-554
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5964

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Keywords: generational progress; assimilation; immigrant labor;

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References

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  1. Brian Duncan & Stephen J. Trejo, 2005. "Ethnic Identification, Intermarriage, and Unmeasured Progress by Mexican Americans," NBER Working Papers 11423, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Duncan, Brian & Trejo, Stephen, 2008. "Ancestry versus Ethnicity: The Complexity and Selectivity of Mexican Identification in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 3552, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Brian Duncan & Stephen J. Trejo, 2011. "Tracking Intergenerational Progress for Immigrant Groups: The Problem of Ethnic Attrition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 603-08, May.
  4. Delia Furtado & Heinrich Hock, 2010. "Low Skilled Immigration and Work-Fertility Tradeoffs among High Skilled US Natives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 224-28, May.
  5. Patricia Cort�s & Jos� Tessada, 2011. "Low-Skilled Immigration and the Labor Supply of Highly Skilled Women," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 88-123, July.
  6. Ottaviano, Gianmarco I. P. & Peri, Giovanni, 2007. "Rethinking the effects of immigration on wages," HWWI Research Papers 3-8, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
  7. 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.
  8. Heather Antecol & Peter Kuhn & Stephen Trejo, 2006. "Assimilation via Prices or Quantities? Sources of Immigrant Earnings Growth in Australia, Canada and the United States," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0603, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  9. Stephen J. Trejo, 2003. "Intergenerational Progress of Mexican-Origin Workers in the U.S. Labor Market," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(3).
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  13. McManus, Walter & Gould, William & Welch, Finis, 1983. "Earnings of Hispanic Men: The Role of English Language Proficiency," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(2), pages 101-30, April.
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  20. Duncan, Brian & Trejo, Stephen, 2008. "Intermarriage and the Intergenerational Transmission of Ethnic Identity and Human Capital for Mexican Americans," IZA Discussion Papers 3547, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  25. George J. Borjas, 2007. "Introduction to "Mexican Immigration to the United States"," NBER Chapters, in: Mexican Immigration to the United States, pages 1-12 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Jaeger, David A, 1997. "Reconciling the Old and New Census Bureau Education Questions: Recommendations for Researchers," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 15(3), pages 300-309, July.
  27. Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz, 1999. "Undocumented workers in the labor market: An analysis of the earnings of legal and illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 91-116.
  28. Hoyt Bleakley & Aimee Chin, 2004. "Language Skills and Earnings: Evidence from Childhood Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 481-496, May.
  29. Bernt Bratsberg & James F. Ragan & Zafar M. Nasir, 2002. "The Effect of Naturalization on Wage Growth: A Panel Study of Young Male Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 568-597, July.
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