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The Effect of Legal Status on Immigrant Wages and Occupational Skills

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Abstract

Native and foreign-born workers with a high school degree or less educational attainment provide unique occupational skills to the US labor force. This regularity might be driven, in part, by limited access to occupations for immigrants lacking legal rights to work in the US. This paper exploits exogenous policy change induced by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) to perform triple-difference estimation examining whether legal status causes immigrants to work in occupations that use skills more similar to those of native-born workers. We find that legal status decreases the manual skill intensity of Mexican immigrants by two percentiles. It increases communication skill intensity by an equivalent amount. This effect reduces the skill gap between Mexican-born and native-born American workers by 13%.

Suggested Citation

  • Steigleder, Quinn & Sparber, Chad, 2015. "The Effect of Legal Status on Immigrant Wages and Occupational Skills," Working Papers 2015-05, Department of Economics, Colgate University, revised 06 Aug 2015.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgt:wpaper:2015-05
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    1. repec:wsi:wschap:9789814719902_0002 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri, 2016. "Rethinking The Effect Of Immigration On Wages," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: The Economics of International Migration, chapter 2, pages 35-80 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
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    7. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Cynthia Bansak, 2011. "The Impact of Amnesty on Labor Market Outcomes: A Panel Study Using the Legalized Population Survey," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(3), pages 443-471, July.
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    10. Sherrie A. Kossoudji & Deborah A. Cobb-Clark, 2002. "Coming out of the Shadows: Learning about Legal Status and Wages from the Legalized Population," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 598-628, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Magris, Francesco & Russo, Giuseppe, 2016. "Fiscal Revenues and Commitment in Immigration Amnesties," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 75-90.
    2. repec:spr:izamig:v:8:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1186_s40176-017-0107-1 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Immigration; Occupational Skills; Natural Experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • 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

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