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Are Refugees Different from Economic Immigrants? Some Empirical Evidence on the Heterogeneity of Immigrant Groups in the United States

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  • Kalena E. Cortes

    (Princeton University)

Abstract

This paper analyzes how the implicit difference in time horizons between refugees and economic immigrants affects subsequent human capital investments and wage assimilation. The analysis uses the 1980 and 1990 Integrated Public Use Samples of the Census to study labor market outcomes of immigrants who arrived in the United States from 1975 to 1980. I find that in 1980 refugee immigrants in this cohort earned 6% less and worked 14% fewer hours than economic immigrants. Both had approximately the same level of English skills. The two immigrant groups had made substantial gains by 1990; however, refugees had made greater gains. In fact, the labor market outcomes of refugee immigrants surpassed those of economic immigrants. In 1990, refugees from the 1975-1980 arrival cohort earned 20% more, worked 4% more hours, and improved their English skills by 11% relative to economic immigrants. The higher rates of human capital accumulation for refugee immigrants contribute to these findings. © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Kalena E. Cortes, 2004. "Are Refugees Different from Economic Immigrants? Some Empirical Evidence on the Heterogeneity of Immigrant Groups in the United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 465-480, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:86:y:2004:i:2:p:465-480
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