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The Immigrant and Native-born Wage Distributions: Evidence from United States Censuses

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  • Kristin F. Butcher
  • John DiNardo

Abstract

Over the past thirty years, immigration has increased, immigrant characteristics have changed, and the relative mean wages of immigrants vis … vis the native born have declined. Using data from four U.S. Censuses (1960 - 1990) we examine changes in the wage structure and their role in explaining comparisons between immigrants and the native-born in mean wages. Inter alia, we document that patterns of comparison between the immigrants and the native-born are not the same for men and for women, and that these differences in immigrant/native-born comparisons among men and women are a consequence of different evolutions in the wage structure. Although virtually ignored in the immigration literature, we return to a well-understood aspect of Blinder/Oaxaca differentials: the extent of measured discrimination depends on the base' prices used for comparison. Contrary to previous work which finds little impact of the wage structure on immigrant/native-born wage differentials, we observe that if the wage structure' had remained as it was in 1970, for example, the decline in immigrant wages relative to the native-born would generally be much smaller than has been observed.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6630.

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Date of creation: Jul 1998
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Publication status: published as Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 56, no. 1, (October 2002): 97-121
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6630

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  1. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "On the Labor Market Effects of Immigration and Trade," NBER Working Papers 3761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. DiNardo, John E & Pischke, Jorn-Steffen, 1997. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 291-303, February.
  3. Harriet Duleep & Seth Sanders, 1993. "The decision to work by married immigrant women," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(4), pages 677-690, July.
  4. Chiswick, Barry R, 1978. "The Effect of Americanization on the Earnings of Foreign-born Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 897-921, October.
  5. Baker, Michael & Benjamin, Dwayne, 1997. "The Role of the Family in Immigrants' Labor-Market Activity: An Evaluation of Alternative Explanations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 705-27, September.
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