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From Engineer to Taxi Driver? Occupational Skills and the Economic Outcomes of Immigrants


  • Susumu Imai

    () (Queen`s University, Department of Economics)

  • Derek Stacey

    () (Queen`s University, Department of Economics)

  • Casey Warman

    () (Queen`s University, Department of Economics)


We examine the ability of male immigrants to transfer their occupational human capital using information from the O*NET and a unique dataset that includes both the last source country occupation and the first four years of occupations in Canada. We first augment a model of occupational choice and skill accumulation to derive predictions about the cross-border transferability of occupational human capital. We then test the empirical implications using the skill requirements of pre- and post-immigration occupations. We find that male immigrants to Canada were employed in source country occupations that required high levels of cognitive skills, but relied less intently on manual skills. Following immigration, they find initial employment in occupations that require the opposite. Regression analysis uncovers large returns to the quantitative skill requirements of Canadian occupations, but no returns to source country skill requirements. Finally, our empirical findings suggests that occupational skill gaps are detrimental to immigrants` earnings.

Suggested Citation

  • Susumu Imai & Derek Stacey & Casey Warman, 2011. "From Engineer to Taxi Driver? Occupational Skills and the Economic Outcomes of Immigrants," Working Papers 1275, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:qed:wpaper:1275

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michèle V. K. Belot & Timothy J. Hatton, 2012. "Immigrant Selection in the OECD," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(4), pages 1105-1128, December.
    2. Gueorgui Kambourov & Iourii Manovskii, 2009. "Occupational Specificity Of Human Capital," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(1), pages 63-115, February.
    3. David E. Bloom & Gilles Grenier & Morley Gunderson, 1995. "The Changing Labour Market Position of Canadian Immigrants," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 28(4b), pages 987-1005, November.
    4. Darren Lubotsky, 2007. "Chutes or Ladders? A Longitudinal Analysis of Immigrant Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(5), pages 820-867, October.
    5. Barry Chiswick & Paul Miller, 2010. "Occupational language requirements and the value of English in the US labor market," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(1), pages 353-372, January.
    6. Christina Gathmann & Uta Schönberg, 2010. "How General Is Human Capital? A Task-Based Approach," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(1), pages 1-49, January.
    7. Ana Ferrer & David A. Green & W. Craig Riddell, 2006. "The Effect of Literacy on Immigrant Earnings," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(2).
    8. repec:eme:rleczz:s0147-9121(07)00009-x is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Cohen-Goldner, Sarit & Eckstein, Zvi, 2010. "Estimating the return to training and occupational experience: The case of female immigrants," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 86-105, May.
    10. Shintaro Yamaguchi, 2012. "Tasks and Heterogeneous Human Capital," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 1-53.
    11. Ingram, Beth F. & Neumann, George R., 2006. "The returns to skill," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 35-59, February.
    12. Gustave Goldmann & Arthur Sweetman & Casey Warman, 2011. "The Portability of New Immigrants' Human Capital: Language, Education and Occupational Matching," Working Papers 1271, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    13. Abdurrahman Aydemir & Mikal Skuterud, 2005. "Explaining the deteriorating entry earnings of Canada's immigrant cohorts, 1966 - 2000," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(2), pages 641-672, May.
    14. Maxim Poletaev & Chris Robinson, 2008. "Human Capital Specificity: Evidence from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and Displaced Worker Surveys, 1984-2000," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 387-420, July.
    15. Green, David A, 1999. "Immigrant Occupational Attainment: Assimilation and Mobility over Time," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 49-79, January.
    16. Charles Beach & Alan G. Green & Christopher Worswick, 2006. "Impacts of the Point System and Immigration Policy Levers on Skill Characteristics of Canadian Immigrants," Working Papers 1115, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    17. Parent, Daniel, 2000. "Industry-Specific Capital and the Wage Profile: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 306-323, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yigit Aydede & Atul Dar, 2017. "Is the lower return to immigrants’ foreign schooling a postarrival problem in Canada?," IZA Journal of Migration, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 6(1), pages 1-25, December.
    2. James Ted McDonald & Casey Warman & Christopher Worswick, 2015. "Immigrant Selection Systems and Occupational Outcomes of International Medical Graduates in Canada and the United States," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 41(s1), pages 116-137, August.
    3. Al?cia Adser? & Ana M. Ferrer, 2014. "The Myth of Immigrant Women as Secondary Workers: Evidence from Canada," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 360-364, May.
    4. Warman, Casey & Worswick, Christopher, 2014. "Technological Change and Declining Immigrant Outcomes, Implications for Income Inequality in Canada," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2014-51, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 25 Nov 2014.
    5. Adserà, Alícia & Ferrer, Ana, 2016. "Occupational skills and labour market progression of married immigrant women in Canada," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 88-98.
    6. Casey Warman & Christopher Worswick, 2015. "Technological change, occupational tasks and declining immigrant outcomes: Implications for earnings and income inequality in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 48(2), pages 736-772, May.
    7. Ortega, Javier & Verdugo, Gregory, 2014. "The impact of immigration on the French labor market: Why so different?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 14-27.
    8. Yigit Aydede & Atul Dar, 2016. "The cost of immigrants’ occupational mismatch and the effectiveness of postarrival policies in Canada," IZA Journal of Migration, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-23, December.

    More about this item


    occupational mobility; skills; human capital; immigration;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • J80 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - General
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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