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Legalization and the Economic Status of Immigrants

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  • Silvia Helena Barcellos

Abstract

This paper investigates the impact of legalization on the economic outcomes of the legalized population. It uses a natural experiment caused by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) which gave amnesty for undocumented immigrants who could prove continuous residence in the U.S. after January 1, 1982. The arbitrary cutoff date on the eligibility criteria causes a discontinuity in the relationship between the year of immigration and the probability of being legal. This paper uses this discontinuity to identify the causal impacts of legalization on immigrants' outcomes. Regression discontinuity and difference-in-differences estimates show that immigrants eligible for the policy have a significantly higher probability of being naturalized citizens than those who were not. Legalization is also found to have a positive and significant effect on wages, a negative effect on the probability of working in a traditionally illegal occupation, and no significant effect on geographical mobility. The analysis for different demographic groups confirms such conclusions and shows that the estimated effects of legalization are larger for low-educated Latin American immigrants, the group that was disproportionably affected by the policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Silvia Helena Barcellos, 2010. "Legalization and the Economic Status of Immigrants," Working Papers WR-754, RAND Corporation.
  • Handle: RePEc:ran:wpaper:wr-754
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2009. "Regression Discontinuity Designs In Economics," Working Papers 1118, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    2. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2010. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 281-355, June.
    3. J. Edward Taylor, 1992. "Earnings and Mobility of Legal and Illegal Immigrant Workers in Agriculture," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 74(4), pages 889-896.
    4. Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz, 1999. "Undocumented workers in the labor market: An analysis of the earnings of legal and illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 12(1), pages 91-116.
    5. Gordon H. Hanson, 2006. "Illegal Migration from Mexico to the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(4), pages 869-924, December.
    6. Borjas, George J & Bratsberg, Bernt, 1996. "Who Leaves? The Outmigration of the Foreign-Born," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(1), pages 165-176, February.
    7. Katharine Donato & Jorge Durand & Douglas Massey, 1992. "Stemming the tide? Assessing the deterrent effects of the immigration reform and control act," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 29(2), pages 139-157, May.
    8. Kristin F. Butcher, 1994. "Black Immigrants in the United States: A Comparison with Native Blacks and other Immigrants," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 47(2), pages 265-284, January.
    9. Sherrie A. Kossoudji & Deborah A. Cobb-Clark, 2002. "Coming out of the Shadows: Learning about Legal Status and Wages from the Legalized Population," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 598-628, July.
    10. David Lindstrom, 1996. "Economic opportunity in mexico and return migration from the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 33(3), pages 357-374, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kuhn, Peter J. & Shen, Kailing, 2014. "Do Employers Prefer Undocumented Workers? Evidence from China's Hukou System," IZA Discussion Papers 8289, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Francesco Fasani, 2015. "Understanding the Role of Immigrants’ Legal Status: Evidence from Policy Experiments," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 61(3-4), pages 722-763.
    3. Casarico, Alessandra & Facchini, Giovanni & Frattini, Tommaso, 2018. "What drives the legalization of immigrants? Evidence from IRCA," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 258-273.
    4. Devillanova, Carlo & Fasani, Francesco & Frattini, Tommaso, 2014. "Employment of Undocumented Immigrants and the Prospect of Legal Status: Evidence from an Amnesty Program," IZA Discussion Papers 8151, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Comino, Stefano & Mastrobuoni, Giovanni & Nicolò, Antonio, 2016. "Silence of the Innocents: Illegal Immigrants' Underreporting of Crime and their Victimization," IZA Discussion Papers 10306, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Lofstrom, Magnus & Hill, Laura E. & Hayes, Joseph, 2010. "Did Employer Sanctions Lose Their Bite? Labor Market Effects of Immigrant Legalization," IZA Discussion Papers 4972, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Comino, Stefano & Mastrobuoni, Giovanni & Nicolò, Antonio, 2016. "Silence of the Innocents: Illegal Immigrants' Underreporting of Crime and their Victimization," IZA Discussion Papers 10306, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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