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Self-Employment and Earnings among High-Skilled Immigrants in the United States


  • Lofstrom, Magnus

    () (Public Policy Institute of California)


This paper uses data from the 1980 and 1990 U.S. Censuses to analyze the labor market experience of high-skilled immigrants relative to high-skilled natives. Immigrants are found to be more likely to be working in one of the high-skilled occupations than natives, but the gap between the two groups decreased in the 1980’s. Given the high self-employment rates of this group of workers, about 20 percent, it is important to study this aspect of the labor market experience. High-skilled natives are more likely to be self-employed than high-skilled immigrants. Models of the self-employment decision, controlling for differences in socio-economic background, occupation, regional differences in immigrant population proportions, national origin and ethnicity, are estimated. Evidence of positive enclave effects on self-employment probabilities is found. Predicted earnings of self-employed immigrants are higher throughout most of their work life relative to wage/salary immigrants and natives, as well as compared to self-employed natives. Furthermore, there appears to be very little difference in predicted earnings across national origin group of self-employed immigrants. The low variation in predicted earnings across country of origin groups is not found for wage/salary immigrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Lofstrom, Magnus, 2000. "Self-Employment and Earnings among High-Skilled Immigrants in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 175, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp175

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert W. Fairlie & Bruce D. Meyer, 1996. "Ethnic and Racial Self-Employment Differences and Possible Explanations," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(4), pages 757-793.
    2. Julian R. Betts & Magnus Lofstrom, 2000. "The Educational Attainment of Immigrants: Trends and Implications," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in the Economics of Immigration, pages 51-116 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Chiswick, Barry R, 1978. "The Effect of Americanization on the Earnings of Foreign-born Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 897-921, October.
    4. Joseph G. Altonji & David Card, 1991. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcomes of Less-skilled Natives," NBER Chapters,in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 201-234 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Borjas, George J, 1985. "Assimilation, Changes in Cohort Quality, and the Earnings of Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 463-489, October.
    6. Magnus Lofstrom, 2002. "Labor market assimilation and the self-employment decision of immigrant entrepreneurs," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 15(1), pages 83-114.
    7. Andrew M. Yuengert, 1995. "Testing Hypotheses of Immigrant Self-Employment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 194-204.
    8. Carliner, Geoffrey, 1980. "Wages, Earnings and Hours of First, Second, and Third Generation American Males," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(1), pages 87-102, January.
    9. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
    10. George J. Borjas, 1986. "The Self-Employment Experience of Immigrants," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(4), pages 485-506.
    11. Joseph G. Altonji & David Card, 1989. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcomes of Natives," NBER Working Papers 3123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. John M. Abowd & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abow91-1, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Timothy Hatton & Andrew Leigh, 2011. "Immigrants assimilate as communities, not just as individuals," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 24(2), pages 389-419, April.

    More about this item


    self-employment; Immigration; assimilation; high-skill;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers


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