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Immigrants in the U.S. labor market


  • Orrenius, Pia M.

    () (Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas)

  • Zavodny, Madeline

    (Agnes Scott College)


Immigrants supply skills that are in relatively short supply in the U.S. labor market and account for almost half of labor force growth since the mid-1990s. Migrant inflows have been concentrated at the low and high ends of the skill distribution. Large-scale unauthorized immigration has fueled growth of the low-skill labor force, which has had modest adverse fiscal and labor market effects on taxpayers and U.S.-born workers. High-skilled immigration has been beneficial in most every way, fueling innovation and spurring entrepreneurship in the high tech sector. Highly skilled immigrants have had a positive fiscal impact, contributing more in tax payments than they use in public services. Immigration reform appears to be on the horizon, and policies such as a legalization initiative, a guest-worker program and more permanent visas for high-skilled workers would likely be an improvement over the status quo.

Suggested Citation

  • Orrenius, Pia M. & Zavodny, Madeline, 2013. "Immigrants in the U.S. labor market," Working Papers 1306, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:feddwp:1306 DOI: 10.24149/wp1306 Note: Published as: Orrenius, Pia M. and Madeline Zavodny (2014), "Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Market," in Undecided Nation: Political Gridlock and the Immigration Crisis, ed. Tony Payan and Erika de la Garza (Switzerland: Springer), 189-207.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Orrenius, Pia M. & Zavodny, Madeline, 2007. "Does immigration affect wages? A look at occupation-level evidence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 757-773, October.
    2. George J. Borjas, 1995. "The Economic Benefits from Immigration," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 3-22, Spring.
    3. Jennifer Hunt, 2011. "Which Immigrants Are Most Innovative and Entrepreneurial? Distinctions by Entry Visa," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(3), pages 417-457.
    4. Guillermina Jasso & Douglas Massey & Mark Rosenzweig & James Smith, 2000. "The new immigrant survey pilot (NIS-P): Overview and new findings about U.S. Legal immigrants at admission," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(1), pages 127-138, February.
    5. Brian C. Cadena, 2013. "Native Competition and Low-Skilled Immigrant Inflows," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(4), pages 910-944.
    6. Ying Pan, 2011. "Gains from Legality´╝Ü Parents Immigration Status and Children's Scholastic Achievement," Departmental Working Papers 2011-05, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
    7. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
    8. William R. Kerr & William F. Lincoln, 2010. "The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and U.S. Ethnic Invention," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(3), pages 473-508, July.
    9. 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..
    10. Pia Orrenius & Madeline Zavodny, 2010. "From brawn to brains: how immigration works for America," Annual Report, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
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    Cited by:

    1. Skoufias, Emmanuel & Lunde, Trine & Patrinos, Harry Anthony, 2009. "Social networks among indigenous peoples in Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4949, The World Bank.
    2. John Bound & Murat Demirci & Gaurav Khanna & Sarah Turner, 2015. "Finishing Degrees and Finding Jobs: US Higher Education and the Flow of Foreign IT Workers," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 27-72.

    More about this item


    Immigration; labor force; immigration policy;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • K37 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Immigration Law

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