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The Immigrant and native-born wage distributions: Evidence from United States censuses

  • Kristin F. Butcher
  • John DiNardo

Recent studies document a large widening of the immigrant/native-born mean wage gap since about 1970, a trend that some observers ascribe to post-1965 changes in U.S. immigration policy. These studies are limited, however, by their exclusive focus on men, which ignores important gender differences in the wage gap, and by the inadequacy of the mean wage for characterizing the gap when, as in recent decades, the wage distribution dramatically changes. This study of recent immigrants examines changes across the entire wage distribution, for both genders. The authors find evidence, based partly on gender differences, that minimum wages strongly influenced the gap. A counterfactual analysis also indicates that if recent immigrants in 1970 had faced the 1990 wage structure, their wage distribution would have closely resembled that of recent immigrants in 1990. These and other results suggest that the increasing wage gap is linked to changes in the wage structure. (Author's abstract.)

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Article provided by ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School in its journal ILR Review.

Volume (Year): 56 (2002)
Issue (Month): 1 (October)
Pages: 97-121

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Handle: RePEc:ilr:articl:v:56:y:2002:i:1:p:97-121
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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. John E. DiNardo & Jorn-Steffen Pischke, 1996. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," NBER Working Papers 5606, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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.
  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. 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.
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