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Immigration and National Wages: Clarifying the Theory and the Empirics

  • Gianmarco I P Ottaviano

    (Università di Bologna)

  • Giovanni Peri

    (University of California)

This paper estimates the effects of immigration on wages of native workers at the national U.S. level. Following Borjas (2003) we focus on national labor markets for workers of different skills and we enrich his methodology and refine previous estimates. We emphasize that a production function framework is needed to combine workers of different skills in order to evaluate the competition as well as cross-skill complementary effects of immigrants on wages. We also emphasize the importance (and estimate the value) of the elasticity of substitution between workers with at most a high school degree and those without one. Since the two groups turn out to be close substitutes, this strongly dilutes the effects of competition between immigrants and workers with no degree. We then estimate the substitutability between natives and immigrants and we find a small but significant degree of imperfect substitution which further decreases the competitive effect of immigrants. Finally, we account for the short run and long run adjustment of capital in response to immigration. Using our estimates and Census data we find that immigration (1990-2006) had small negative effects in the short run on native workers with no high school degree (-0.7%) and on average wages (-0.4%) while it had small positive effects on native workers with no high school degree (+0.3%) and on average native wages (+0.6%) in the long run. These results are perfectly in line with the estimated aggregate elasticities in the labor literature since Katz and Murphy (1992). We also find a wage effect of new immigrants on previous immigrants in the order of negative 6%.

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Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2008.77.

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Date of creation: Sep 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2008.77
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  1. George J. Borjas, 2005. "Native Internal Migration and the Labor Market Impact of Immigration," NBER Working Papers 11610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. D Amuri, Francesco & Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Peri, Giovanni, 2008. "The Labour Market Impact of Immigration in Western Germany in the 1990's," CEPR Discussion Papers 6736, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. David Card, 1989. "The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 3069, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. David Card & Ethan G. Lewis, 2007. "The Diffusion of Mexican Immigrants During the 1990s: Explanations and Impacts," NBER Chapters, in: Mexican Immigration to the United States, pages 193-228 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Felbermayr, Gabriel J. & Geis, Wido & Kohler, Wilhelm K., 2008. "Restrictive immigration policy in Germany: pains and gains foregone?," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2008,18, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
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  16. 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.
  17. Ottaviano, Gianmarco I. P. & Peri, Giovanni, 2007. "Rethinking the effects of immigration on wages," HWWI Research Papers 3-8, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
  18. Simonetta Longhi & Peter Nijkamp & Jacques Poot, 2005. "A Meta-Analytic Assessment of the Effect of Immigration on Wages," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(3), pages 451-477, 07.
  19. George E. Johnson, 1997. "Changes in Earnings Inequality: The Role of Demand Shifts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 41-54, Spring.
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  21. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & JosÈ-Victor RÌos-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 2000. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1029-1054, September.
  22. John DiNardo & David Card, 2000. "Do Immigrant Inflows Lead to Native Outflows?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 360-367, May.
  23. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Peri, Giovanni, 2004. "The Economic Value of Cultural Diversity: Evidence from US Cities," CEPR Discussion Papers 4233, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  24. Daron Acemoglu, 2001. "Directed Technical Change," NBER Working Papers 8287, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Rachel M. Friedberg & J. Hunt, 1995. "The Impact of Immigrants on Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth," Working Papers 95-5, Brown University, Department of Economics.
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  27. Ethan Lewis, 2005. "Immigration, Skill Mix, and the Choice of Technique," Working Papers 05-04, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  28. Joshua D. Angrist, 1995. "The Economic Returns to Schooling in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," Working papers 95-5, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  29. David Card, 2007. "How Immigration Affects U.S. Cities," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0711, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  30. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1335-1374.
  31. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Friedman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1997. "How Much Do Immigration and Trade Affect Labor Market Outcomes?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(1), pages 1-90.
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