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Assimilation to a Welfare State: Labor Market Performance and Use of Social Benefits by Immigrants to Finland


  • Matti Sarvimäki


Abstract: I study the assimilation of immigrants to the Finnish labor market and welfare system. The initial immigrant-native earnings gaps are large. While longterm immigrants experience a rapid earnings growth, only men from OECD countries converge to natives' earnings. Among all immigrant groups earnings grow predominantly due to improving employment rates rather than wage growth. Earnings profiles for temporary immigrants are flat. Furthermore, direct study of the use of social benefits suggests that immigrants learn to use the welfare system gradually. In particular, non-OECD households substantially increase their use of social assistance during their first five years in the country despite simultaneously doubling their earnings. JEL classification: J61, J31, F22
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Suggested Citation

  • Matti Sarvimäki, 2011. "Assimilation to a Welfare State: Labor Market Performance and Use of Social Benefits by Immigrants to Finland," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 113(3), pages 665-688, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:scandj:v:113:y:2011:i:3:p:665-688 DOI: j.1467-9442.2011.01652.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bargain, Olivier & Immervoll, Herwig & Viitamäki, Heikki, 2007. "How Tight Are Safety-Nets in Nordic Countries? Evidence from Finnish Register Data," IZA Discussion Papers 3004, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Wei-Yin Hu, 2000. "Immigrant Earnings Assimilation: Estimates from Longitudinal Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 368-372, May.
    3. 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.
    4. Erling Barth & Bernt Bratsberg & Oddbj¯rn Raaum, 2004. "Identifying Earnings Assimilation of Immigrants under Changing Macroeconomic Conditions," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(1), pages 1-22, March.
    5. Borjas, George J, 1985. "Assimilation, Changes in Cohort Quality, and the Earnings of Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 463-489, October.
    6. Antecol, Heather & Kuhn, Peter J. & Trejo, Stephen, 2003. "Assimilation via Prices or Quantities? Labor Market Institutions and Immigrant Earnings Growth in Australia, Canada, and the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 802, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Darren Lubotsky, 2007. "Chutes or Ladders? A Longitudinal Analysis of Immigrant Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(5), pages 820-867, October.
    8. Husted, Leif & Skyt Nielsen, Helena & Rosholm, Michael & Smith, Nina, 2000. "Employment and Wage Assimilation of Male First Generation Immigrants in Denmark," CLS Working Papers 00-1, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Centre for Labour Market and Social Research.
    9. George J. Borjas & Lynette Hilton, 1996. "Immigration and the Welfare State: Immigrant Participation in Means-Tested Entitlement Programs," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 575-604.
    10. Dustmann, C, 1993. "Earnings Adjustment of Temporary Migrants," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 6(2), pages 153-168, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Dustmann, 2014. "Selective Outmigration and the Estimation of Immigrants Earnings Profiles," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1402, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    2. Dustmann, Christian & Görlach, Joseph-Simon, 2016. "Estimating immigrant earnings profiles when migrations are temporary," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 1-8.
    3. Christian Dustmann & Joseph-Simon Görlach, 2016. "The Economics of Temporary Migrations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(1), pages 98-136, March.
    4. Barth, Erling & Bratsberg, Bernt & Raaum, Oddbjørn, 2012. "Immigrant wage profiles within and between establishments," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 541-556.
    5. Bratsberg, Bernt & Raaum, Oddbjørn & Røed, Knut, 2011. "Educating Children of Immigrants: Closing the Gap in Norwegian Schools," IZA Discussion Papers 6138, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Laura Ansala & Ulla Hämäläinen & Matti Sarvimäki, 2016. "Slipping through the Cracks of a Welfare State: Children of Immigrants in Finland," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1606, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    7. Ian Preston, 2014. "The Effect of Immigration on Public Finances," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(580), pages 569-592, November.
    8. Mari Kangasniemi & Merja Kauhanen, 2013. "Who leaves and who stays? Outmigration of Estonian immigrants from Finland and its impact on economic assimilation of Estonian immigrants in Finland," Norface Discussion Paper Series 2013001, Norface Research Programme on Migration, Department of Economics, University College London.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration


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