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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

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristin F. Butcher & John Dinardo, 2002. "The Immigrant and Native-Born Wage Distributions: Evidence from United States Censuses," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(1), pages 97-121, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ilrrev:v:56:y:2002:i:1:p:97-121
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "On the Labor Market Effects of Immigration and Trade," NBER Chapters,in: Immigration and the Workforce: Economic Consequences for the United States and Source Areas, pages 213-244 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. John E. DiNardo & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 1997. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 291-303.
    4. 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, pages 705-727.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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