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The Effects of Immigration on Wages: An Application of the Structural Skill-Cell Approach

  • Michael Gerfin
  • Boris Kaiser

This paper investigates how recent immigration inflows from 2002 to 2008 have affected wages in Switzerland. This period is of particular interest as it marks the time during which the bilateral agreement with the EU on the free crossborder movement of workers has been effective. Since different types of workers are likely to be unevenly affected by recent immigration inflows, we follow the "structural skill-cell approach" as for example employed by Borjas (2003) and Ottaviano and Peri (2008). This paper provides two main contributions. First, we estimate empirically the elasticities of substitution between different types of workers in Switzerland. Our results suggest that natives and immigrants are imperfect substitutes. Regarding different skill levels, the estimates indicate that workers are imperfect substitutes across broad education groups and across different experience groups. Second, the estimated elasticities of substitution are used to simulate the impact on domestic wages using the actual immigration inflows from 2002 to 2008. For the long run, the simulations produce some notable distributional consequences across different types of workers: While previous immigrants incur wage losses (-1.6%), native workers are not negatively affected on average (+0.4%). In the short run, immigration has a negative macroeconomic effect on the average wage, which, however, gradually dies out in the process of capital adjustment.

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Article provided by Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES) in its journal Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 146 (2010)
Issue (Month): IV (December)
Pages: 709-739

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Handle: RePEc:ses:arsjes:2010-iv-5
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  1. Gianmarco I P Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri, 2008. "Immigration and National Wages: Clarifying the Theory and the Empirics," Working Papers 2008.77, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
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  7. George J. Borjas & Jeffrey Grogger & Gordon H. Hanson, 2008. "Imperfect Substitution between Immigrants and Natives: A Reappraisal," NBER Working Papers 13887, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Bodvarsson, Örn B. & Lewer, Joshua J. & Van den Berg, Hendrik, 2007. "Measuring Immigration's Effects on Labor Demand: A Reexamination of the Mariel Boatlift," IZA Discussion Papers 2919, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Borjas, George J & Freeman, Richard B & Katz, Lawrence, 1996. "Searching for the Effect of Immigration on the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 246-51, May.
  10. Nazrul Islam, 2003. "What have We Learnt from the Convergence Debate?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(3), pages 309-362, 07.
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  17. Francesco D'Amuri & Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri, 2009. "The Labor Market Impact of Immigration in Western Germany in the 1990's," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0910, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  18. Michael Gerfin & Boris Kaiser, 2010. "The Effects of Immigration on Wages: An Application of the Structural Skill-Cell Approach," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 146(IV), pages 709-739, December.
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  22. De New, John P & Zimmermann, Klaus F, 1994. "Native Wage Impacts of Foreign Labor: A Random Effects Panel Analysis," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 177-92.
  23. Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri, 2012. "Rethinking The Effect Of Immigration On Wages," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 152-197, 02.
  24. John P. Haisken-DeNew & Klaus F. Zimmermann, . "Native Wage Impacts of Foreign Labor," Working Papers 9408, SELAPO Center for Human Resources.
  25. Jörn-Steffen Pischke & Johannes Velling, 1997. "Employment Effects Of Immigration To Germany: An Analysis Based On Local Labor Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(4), pages 594-604, November.
  26. Caselli, Francesco & Esquivel, Gerardo & Lefort, Fernando, 1996. " Reopening the Convergence Debate: A New Look at Cross-Country Growth Empirics," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 363-89, September.
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