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The impact of Mexican immigrants on U.S. wage structure

  • Maude Toussaint-Comeau
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    Previous study by Card and Lewis (2005) has found (puzzling) that inflows of Mexican immigrants into “new” metropolitan areas have had no effect on the relative wages of very low-skill (high school dropouts). Rather, Mexican workers do affect relative wages for high school graduates. Whereas Card and Lewis’ study uses variations across geographies, this paper considers variations across occupations. Recognizing that Mexican immigrants are highly occupationally clustered (disproportionately work in distinctive “very low wage” occupations), we use this fact to motivate the empirical approach to analyze the relationship between the composition of Mexican immigrants across occupations/industries and average wages in the occupations/industries. To summarize our finding, we confirm that in spite of the fact that Mexican immigrants are disproportionately in “very low skill” occupations, (which we define as occupations where the average workers have no high school education), we find no significant impact of Mexican immigrants on wages in those occupations. By contrast, inflows of Mexican immigrants have some small effects on the wages of native workers in “low skill” occupations (which we define as occupations where the average worker has at least some high school education or is a high school graduate). These results suggest potential “spill over effects” as natives may be reallocating their labor supply into non-predominant Mexican occupations. An analysis of employment changes of natives into different occupation groupings in response to an inflow of Mexican immigrants, confirms that natives’ employment in occupations where the average worker has a high school education increases in response to Mexican inflows in the U.S labor force from previous periods.

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    Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-07-24.

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    Date of creation: 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-07-24
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    1. David Card, 2005. "Is the New Immigration Really So Bad?," NBER Working Papers 11547, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Peri, Giovanni, 2005. "Rethinking the Gains from Immigration: Theory and Evidence from the US," CEPR Discussion Papers 5226, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. David Autor & Frank Levy & Richard Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    4. David Card, 1996. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," Working Papers 747, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    5. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Freeman & Kevin Lang, 1991. "Undocumented Mexican-born Workers in the United States: How Many, How Permanent?," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 77-100 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. 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.
    7. Friedberg, Rachel M, 2000. "You Can't Take It with You? Immigrant Assimilation and the Portability of Human Capital," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 221-51, April.
    8. Chiswick, Carmel U. & Chiswick, Barry R. & Karras, Georgios, 1992. "The impact of immigrants on the macroeconomy," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 279-316, December.
    9. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "On the Labor Market Effects of Immigration and Trade," NBER Working Papers 3761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. David Card, 1989. "The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 3069, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Ethan Lewis, 2003. "Local, open economies within the U.S.: how do industries respond to immigration?," Working Papers 04-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    12. Michael J. Greenwood & Gary L. Hunt, 1990. "Economic effects of immigrants on native and foreign-born workers: complementarity, substitutability, and other channels of influence," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    13. George J. Borjas & Richard B. Freeman & Lawrence F. Katz, 1996. "Searching for the Effect of Immigration on the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 5454, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Giovanni Peri & Chad Sparber, 2007. "Task Specialization, Comparative Advantages, and the Effects of Immigration on Wages," NBER Working Papers 13389, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Joseph Altonji & David Card, 1989. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcome of Less-Skilled Natives," Working Papers 636, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    16. LaLonde, Robert J & Topel, Robert H, 1991. "Immigrants in the American Labor Market: Quality, Assimilation, and Distributional Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 297-302, May.
    17. Rachel M. Friedberg, 2001. "The Impact Of Mass Migration On The Israeli Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1373-1408, November.
    18. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
    19. John M. Abowd & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abow91-1, July.
    20. Sicherman, Nachum & Galor, Oded, 1990. "A Theory of Career Mobility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(1), pages 169-92, February.
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