IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/rye/wpaper/wp040.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

From Engineer to Taxi Driver? Language Proficiency and the Occupational Skills of Immigrants

Author

Listed:
  • Susumu Imai

    () (UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)

  • Derek Stacey

    () (Department of Economics, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)

  • Casey Warman

    () (Department of Economics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada)

Abstract

We examine the ability of immigrants to transfer the occupational human capital they acquired prior to immigration. We first augment a model of occupational choice to study the implications of language proficiency on the cross-border transferability of occupational human capital. We then explore the empirical predictions using information about the skill requirements 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 supplement the analysis using Census estimates for the same cohort with source country occupational skill requirements predicted using detailed human capital related information such as field of study. We find that male immigrants to Canada were employed in source country occupations that typically require high levels of cognitive skills, but rely less intently on manual skills. Following immigration, they find initial employment in occupations that require the opposite. Consistent with the hypothesized asymmetric role of language in the transferability of previously acquired cognitive and manual skills, these discrepancies are larger among immigrants with limited language fluency.

Suggested Citation

  • Susumu Imai & Derek Stacey & Casey Warman, 2014. "From Engineer to Taxi Driver? Language Proficiency and the Occupational Skills of Immigrants," Working Papers 040, Ryerson University, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2018.
  • Handle: RePEc:rye:wpaper:wp040
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://economics.ryerson.ca/workingpapers/wp040.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Borjas, George J, 1995. "Assimilation and Changes in Cohort Quality Revisited: What Happened to Immigrant Earnings in the 1980s?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 201-245, April.
    3. Chiswick, Barry R. & DebBurman, Noyna, 2004. "Educational attainment: analysis by immigrant generation," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 361-379, August.
    4. Casey Warman & Matthew D. Webb & Christopher Worswick, 2019. "Immigrant category of admission and the earnings of adults and children: how far does the apple fall?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 32(1), pages 53-112, January.
    5. Berman, Eli & Lang, Kevin & Siniver, Erez, 2003. "Language-skill complementarity: returns to immigrant language acquisition," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 265-290, June.
    6. Neeraj Kaushal & Yao Lu & Nicole Denier & Julia Shu-Huah Wang & Stephen J. Trejo, 2016. "Immigrant employment and earnings growth in Canada and the USA: evidence from longitudinal data," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(4), pages 1249-1277, October.
    7. Barry R. Chiswick & Paul W. Miller, 2012. "Negative and Positive Assimilation, Skill Transferability, and Linguistic Distance," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 35-55.
    8. 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.
    9. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2008. "Why is the payoff to schooling smaller for immigrants?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(6), pages 1317-1340, December.
    10. Giovanni Peri & Chad Sparber, 2016. "Task Specialization, Immigration, and Wages," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: The Economics of International Migration, chapter 3, pages 81-115, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    11. Yigit Aydede & Atul Dar, 2016. "The cost of immigrants’ occupational mismatch and the effectiveness of postarrival policies in Canada," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-23, December.
    12. Li, Qing & Sweetman, Arthur, 2014. "The quality of immigrant source country educational outcomes: Do they matter in the receiving country?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 81-93.
    13. Friedberg, Rachel M, 2000. "You Can't Take It with You? Immigrant Assimilation and the Portability of Human Capital," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 221-251, April.
    14. Chris Robinson, 2018. "Occupational Mobility, Occupation Distance, and Specific Human Capital," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 53(2), pages 513-551.
    15. 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.
    16. Giovanni Peri & Chad Sparber, 2016. "Task Specialization, Immigration, and Wages," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: The Economics of International Migration, chapter 3, pages 81-115 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    17. 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.
    18. Marigee P. Bacolod & Bernardo S. Blum, 2010. "Two Sides of the Same Coin: U.S. "Residual" Inequality and the Gender Gap," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(1).
    19. Shintaro Yamaguchi, 2012. "Tasks and Heterogeneous Human Capital," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 1-53.
    20. Alicia Adsera & Ana Ferrer, 2015. "The Effect of Linguistic Proximity on the Occupational Assimilation of Immigrant Men in Canada," Working Papers 1503, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Dec 2015.
    21. 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/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 48(2), pages 736-772, May.
    22. Ana Ferrer & W. Craig Riddell, 2008. "Education, credentials, and immigrant earnings," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(1), pages 186-216, February.
    23. Ingram, Beth F. & Neumann, George R., 2006. "The returns to skill," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 35-59, February.
    24. Baker, Michael & Benjamin, Dwayne, 1994. "The Performance of Immigrants in the Canadian Labor Market," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(3), pages 369-405, July.
    25. Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul W, 1995. "The Endogeneity between Language and Earnings: International Analyses," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 246-288, April.
    26. Goldmann, Gustave & Sweetman, Arthur & Warman, Casey, 2011. "The Portability of New Immigrants' Human Capital: Language, Education and Occupational Matching," IZA Discussion Papers 5851, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    27. Abdurrahman Aydemir & Mikal Skuterud, 2005. "Explaining the deteriorating entry earnings of Canada's immigrant cohorts, 1966 – 2000," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 38(2), pages 641-672, May.
    28. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2013. "The impact of surplus skills on earnings: Extending the over-education model to language proficiency," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 263-275.
    29. Audra J. Bowlus & Masashi Miyairi & Chris Robinson, 2016. "Immigrant job search assimilation in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 49(1), pages 5-51, February.
    30. Green, David A. & Worswick, Christopher, 2012. "Immigrant earnings profiles in the presence of human capital investment: Measuring cohort and macro effects," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 241-259.
    31. Neal, Derek, 1995. "Industry-Specific Human Capital: Evidence from Displaced Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(4), pages 653-677, October.
    32. Joseph Schaafsma & Arthur Sweetman, 2001. "Immigrant earnings: age at immigration matters," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 34(4), pages 1066-1099, November.
    33. 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.
    34. Arthur Sweetman & Casey Warman, 2013. "Canada's Immigration Selection System and Labour Market Outcomes," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 39(s1), pages 141-160, May.
    35. 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.
    36. Edward P. Lazear, 2009. "Firm-Specific Human Capital: A Skill-Weights Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(5), pages 914-940, October.
    37. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2003. "The complementarity of language and other human capital: immigrant earnings in Canada," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 469-480, October.
    38. 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.
    39. Philip Oreopoulos, 2011. "Why Do Skilled Immigrants Struggle in the Labor Market? A Field Experiment with Thirteen Thousand Resumes," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 148-171, November.
    40. Casey Warman & Arthur Sweetman & Gustave Goldmann, 2015. "The Portability of New Immigrants' Human Capital: Language, Education, and Occupational Skills," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 41(s1), pages 64-79, August.
    41. Dechief, Diane & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2012. "Why do some employers prefer to interview Matthew but not Samir? New evidence from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2012-8, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 19 Feb 2012.
    42. 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.
    43. Green, Colin & Kler, Parvinder & Leeves, Gareth, 2007. "Immigrant overeducation: Evidence from recent arrivals to Australia," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 420-432, August.
    44. Charles M. Beach & Alan G. Green & Christopher Worswick, 2007. "Impacts of the Point System and Immigration Policy Levers on Skill Characteristics of Canadian Immigrants," Research in Labor Economics, in: Barry R. Chiswick (ed.), Immigration, volume 27, pages 349-401, Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    45. Arthur Sweetman & Casey Warman, 2014. "Former Temporary Foreign Workers and International Students as Sources of Permanent Immigration," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 40(4), pages 392-407, December.
    46. Hoyt Bleakley & Aimee Chin, 2004. "Language Skills and Earnings: Evidence from Childhood Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 481-496, May.
    47. 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).
    48. Serge Coulombe & Gilles Grenier & Serge Nadeau, 2012. "Human Capital Quality and the Immigrant Wage Gap," Working Papers 1212E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Aslan Zorlu, 2016. "Immigrants’ occupational mobility—Down and back up again," IZA World of Labor, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), pages 290-290, August.
    2. Hanna Wielandt, 2015. "Employment Polarization and Immigrant Employment Opportunities," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2015-025, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
    3. Audra J. Bowlus & Masashi Miyairi & Chris Robinson, 2016. "Immigrant job search assimilation in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 49(1), pages 5-51, February.
    4. Heinesen, Eskil & Imai, Susumu & Maruyama, Shiko, 2018. "Employment, job skills and occupational mobility of cancer survivors," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 151-175.
    5. Angela Daley & Min Hu & Casey Warman, 2019. "Language proficiency and immigrants’ economic integration," IZA World of Labor, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), pages 469-469, December.
    6. Rebecca Lessem & Carl Sanders, 2020. "Immigrant Wage Growth In The United States: The Role Of Occupational Upgrading," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 61(2), pages 941-972, May.
    7. Nick Manuel & Miana Plesca, 2020. "Skill transferability and the earnings of immigrants," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 53(4), pages 1404-1428, November.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. 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.
    2. Dustmann, Christian & Glitz, Albrecht, 2011. "Migration and Education," Handbook of the Economics of Education, in: Erik Hanushek & Stephen Machin & Ludger Woessmann (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Education, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 0, pages 327-439, Elsevier.
    3. Susumu Imai & Derek G. Stacey & Casey Warman, 2011. "From Engineer To Taxi Driver? Occupational Skills And The Economic Outcomes Of Immigrants," Working Paper 1275, Economics Department, Queen's University.
    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. David A. Green & Christopher Worswick, 2017. "Canadian economics research on immigration through the lens of theories of justice," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 50(5), pages 1262-1303, December.
    6. Goldmann, Gustave & Sweetman, Arthur & Warman, Casey, 2009. "The Economic Return on New Immigrants' Human Capital: the Impact of Occupational Matching," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2009-30, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 22 Apr 2009.
    7. Sweetman, Arthur & Warman, Casey, 2009. "Temporary Foreign Workers and Former International Students as a Source of Permanent Immigration," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2009-34, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 22 Jun 2009.
    8. McHale, John & Rogers, Keith, 2009. "Selecting Economic Immigrants: An Actuarial Approach," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2009-64, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 28 Nov 2009.
    9. Fortin, Nicole & Lemieux, Thomas & Torres, Javier, 2016. "Foreign human capital and the earnings gap between immigrants and Canadian-born workers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 104-119.
    10. Esteban Sanromà & Raúl Ramos & Hipólito Simón, 2009. "Immigrant wages in the Spanish labour market: does the origin of human capital matter?," Working Papers 2009/8, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    11. Sarit Cohen Goldner & Gil Epstein, 2014. "Age at immigration and high school dropouts," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-20, December.
    12. Ralph Stinebrickner & Todd Stinebrickner & Paul Sullivan, 2019. "Job Tasks, Time Allocation, and Wages," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(2), pages 399-433.
    13. Sweetman, A. & van Ours, J.C., 2014. "Immigration : What About the Children and Grandchildren?," Discussion Paper 2014-009, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    14. Eggenberger, Christian & Rinawi, Miriam & Backes-Gellner, Uschi, 2018. "Occupational specificity: A new measurement based on training curricula and its effect on labor market outcomes," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 97-107.
    15. Green, David A. & Worswick, Christopher, 2012. "Immigrant earnings profiles in the presence of human capital investment: Measuring cohort and macro effects," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 241-259.
    16. Abdurrahman Aydemir, 2013. "Skill-based immigrant selection and labor market outcomes by visa category," Chapters, in: Amelie F. Constant & Klaus F. Zimmermann (ed.), International Handbook on the Economics of Migration, chapter 23, pages 432-452, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    17. Ian Nicole A. Generalao, 2019. "Mapping tasks to occupations using Philippine data," UP School of Economics Discussion Papers 201904, University of the Philippines School of Economics.
    18. Casey Warman, 2007. "You Can Take It With You! The Returns To Foreign Human Capital Of Male Temporary Foreign Workers," Working Paper 1125, Economics Department, Queen's University.
    19. Hirsch, Boris & Jahn, Elke J. & Toomet, Ott & Hochfellner, Daniela, 2014. "Do better pre-migration skills accelerate immigrants' wage assimilation?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 212-222.
    20. Anthony Edo & Lionel Ragot & Hillel Rapoport & Sulin Sardoschau & Andreas Steinmayr & Arthur Sweetman, 2020. "An introduction to the economics of immigration in OECD countries," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 53(4), pages 1365-1403, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Occupational Mobility; Language Proficiency; Skills; Human Capital; Immigration; Field of Study;
    All these keywords.

    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
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • J80 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:rye:wpaper:wp040. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Maurice Roche). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/deryeca.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.