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The Effect of Changes in the U.S. Wage Structure on Recent Immigrants' Earnings

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  • Darren Lubotsky

    (Princeton University)

Abstract

Since recent immigrants tend to earn less than natives, their relative labor market status has been adversely impacted by an increase in the return to labor market skills and widening wage inequality over the past two decades. To evaluate the magnitude of this effect, this study uses Social Security earnings records matched to recent cross sections of the SIPP and CPS to estimate the change in the return to skills among native born workers. This is then used to adjust the earnings gap between immigrants and natives in order to estimate what the gap would have been if the return to skills had remained at its 1980 level. The results suggest that the return to skills rose by 40 percent between 1980 and 1997, leading to a 10 to 15 percentage point decrease in the relative earnings of recent immigrants. Thus examining solely the earnings of recent immigrants may lead to an overly pessimistic picture of their actual labor market skills.

Suggested Citation

  • Darren Lubotsky, 2001. "The Effect of Changes in the U.S. Wage Structure on Recent Immigrants' Earnings," Working Papers 837, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:458
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Card, David & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Wage dispersion, returns to skill, and black-white wage differentials," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 319-361, October.
    4. MaCurdy, Thomas E., 1982. "The use of time series processes to model the error structure of earnings in a longitudinal data analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 83-114, January.
    5. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-442, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    immigrants; wages; skills;

    JEL classification:

    • P23 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Factor and Product Markets; Industry Studies; Population
    • P24 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - National Income, Product, and Expenditure; Money; Inflation
    • P25 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy

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