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The Determinants of the Wages of Immigrants


  • Mark R. Rosenzweig

    (Yale University)

  • Joseph G. Altonji

    (Yale University)


In this paper, we examine three main questions concerning wages. First, how do wages of native workers depend on the skills of the worker and the characteristics of an economy? Second, what do differences between the characteristics of the US and the home country economies predict about the wage gains of immigrants to the United States from a given country. Third, what types of skills are most transferable between economies and what is the role of English language proficiency in the transferability of skills to the US? Our empirical analysis is motivated by a model of wage determination and occupation choice. We show that under some strong assumptions, one may use the skill requirements of a worker’s occupation as indicators of the skill characteristics of the worker. The empirical analysis takes advantage of the New Immigrant Survey, which provides data on a number of worker characteristics as well as consistent measures of wage rates and occupation before and after immigration for US immigrants from a large number of countries. We use our analysis as the basis for a discussion of the effects of immigration policy on average US wages and on the average wage gain of immigrants attracted to the United States

Suggested Citation

  • Mark R. Rosenzweig & Joseph G. Altonji, 2008. "The Determinants of the Wages of Immigrants," 2008 Meeting Papers 1084, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed008:1084

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    References listed on IDEAS

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