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Imperfect Substitution between Immigrants and Natives: A Reappraisal

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  • George J. Borjas
  • Jeffrey Grogger
  • Gordon H. Hanson

Abstract

In a recent paper, Ottaviano and Peri (2007a) report evidence that immigrant and native workers are not perfect substitutes within narrowly defined skill groups. The resulting complementarities have important policy implications because immigration may then raise the wage of many native-born workers. We examine the Ottaviano-Peri empirical exercise and show that their finding of imperfect substitution is fragile and depends on the way the sample of working persons is constructed. There is a great deal of heterogeneity in labor market attachment among workers and the finding of imperfect substitution disappears once the analysis adjusts for such heterogeneity. As an example, the finding of immigrant-native complementarity evaporates simply by removing high school students from the data (under the Ottaviano and Peri classification, currently enrolled high school juniors and seniors are included among high school dropouts, which substantially increases the counts of young low-skilled workers ). More generally, we cannot reject the hypothesis that comparably skilled immigrant and native workers are perfect substitutes once the empirical exercise uses standard methods to carefully construct the variables representing factor prices and factor supplies.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13887
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri, 2021. "Rethinking The Effect Of Immigration On Wages," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Firms and Workers in a Globalized World Larger Markets, Tougher Competition, chapter 9, pages 245-290, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    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, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 705-746.
    3. George J. Borjas & Jeffrey Grogger & Gordon H. Hanson, 2006. "Immigration and African-American Employment Opportunities: The Response of Wages, Employment, and Incarceration to Labor Supply Shocks," NBER Working Papers 12518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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.
    5. George J. Borjas, 2007. "Mexican Immigration to the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number borj06-1, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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