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Immigrants' Complementarities and Native Wages: Evidence from California

  • Giovanni Peri

As of 2004 California employed almost 30% of all foreign born workers in the U.S. and was the state with the largest percentage of immigrants in the labor force. It received a very large number of uneducated immigrants so that two thirds of workers with no schooling degree in California were foreign-born in 2004. If immigration harms the labor opportunities of natives, especially the least skilled ones, California was the place where these effects should have been particularly strong. But is it possible that immigrants raised the demand for California's native workers, rather than harming it? After all immigrants have different skills and tend to work in different occupations then natives and hence they may raise productivity and the demand for complementary production tasks and skills. We consider workers of different education and age as imperfectly substitutable in production and we exploit differences in immigration across these groups to infer their impact on US natives. In order to isolate the "supply-driven" variation of immigrants across skills and to identify the labor market responses of natives we use a novel instrumental variable strategy. Our estimates use migration by skill group to other U.S. states as instrument for migration to California. Migratory flows to other states, in fact, share the same "push" factors as those to California but clearly are not affected by the California-specific "pull" factors. We find that between 1960 and 2004 immigration did not produce a negative migratory response from natives. To the contrary, as immigrants were imperfect substitutes for natives with similar education and age we find that they stimulated, rather than harmed, the demand and wages of most U.S. native workers.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12956.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12956.

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Date of creation: Mar 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12956
Note: ITI LS
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  1. Angrist, Joshua D, 1995. "The Economic Returns to Schooling in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1065-87, December.
  2. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2001. "Can Falling Supply Explain The Rising Return To College For Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 705-746, May.
  3. 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.
  4. Dustmann, Christian & Fabbri, Francesca & Preston, Ian, 2010. "Racial Harassment, Ethnic Concentration and Economic Conditions," IZA Discussion Papers 4885, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Abdurrahman Aydemir & George J. Borjas, 2011. "Attenuation Bias in Measuring the Wage Impact of Immigration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 69-113, 01.
  6. 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).
  7. George J. Borjas, 2005. "Native Internal Migration and the Labor Market Impact of Immigration," NBER Working Papers 11610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1335-1374, November.
  9. Abdurrahman Aydemir & George J. Borjas, 2006. "A Comparative Analysis of the Labor Market Impact of International Migration: Canada, Mexico, and the United States," NBER Working Papers 12327, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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