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The Over-Education of UK Immigrants: Evidence from the Labour Force Survey


  • Joanne Kathryn Lindley

    () (Department of Economics, The University of Sheffield)

  • Pamela Lenton

    () (Department of Economics, The University of Sheffield)


We investigate the incidence of over-education, as well as the effect on earnings, for immigrants and natives drawn from the Labour Force Survey between 1993 and 2003. This paper investigates whether immigrants are more or less likely to be over and under-educated than are natives and if there is any evidence of economic assimilation in such propensity differences. In addition we examine whether immigrants exhibit a larger or smaller earnings for over-education compared to natives. We find that native born non-whites and immigrants are more likely to be over-educated, even after conditioning on all other socio-economic factors (including ethnicity and English speaking country of origin). However, we also find evidence of assimilation in the incidence of immigrant over-education towards that of natives. Finally, we find that over-education implies a lower return to earnings for immigrants and non-white natives, compared to native born whites. The largest loss in earnings due to over-education actually applies to white education entrants, moreover we find no significant return to over-education for non-white labour market entrants, once we distinguish between these two immigrant groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Joanne Kathryn Lindley & Pamela Lenton, 2006. "The Over-Education of UK Immigrants: Evidence from the Labour Force Survey," Working Papers 2006001, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2006.
  • Handle: RePEc:shf:wpaper:2006001

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ken Clark & Joanne Kathryn Lindley, 2005. "Immigrant Labour Market Assimilation and Arrival Effects: Evidence from the Labour Force Survey," Working Papers 2005004, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2005.
    2. Bell, Brian D, 1997. "The Performance of Immigrants in the United Kingdom: Evidence from the GHS," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(441), pages 333-344, March.
    3. Dolton, Peter & Vignoles, Anna, 2000. "The incidence and effects of overeducation in the U.K. graduate labour market," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 179-198, April.
    4. P. J. Sloane & H. Battu & P. T. Seaman, 1999. "Overeducation, undereducation and the British labour market," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(11), pages 1437-1453.
    5. 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.
    6. D.H. Blackaby & D.G. Leslie & P.D. Murphy, 2002. "White-ethnic minority earnings and employment differentials in Britain: evidence from the LFS," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(2), pages 270-297, April.
    7. Dearden, Lorraine, 1999. "The effects of families and ability on men's education and earnings in Britain1," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 551-567, November.
    8. H. Battu & P. J. Sloane, 2004. "Over-Education and Ethnic Minorities in Britain," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 72(4), pages 535-559, July.
    9. Lorraine Dearden, 1999. "Qualifications and earnings in Britain: how reliable are conventional OLS estimates of the returns to education?," IFS Working Papers W99/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stefan Jestl & Michael Landesmann & Sandra M. Leitner, 2015. "Migrants and Natives in EU Labour Markets: Mobility and Job-Skill Mismatch Patterns," wiiw Research Reports 403, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.
    2. Mesbah Sharaf, 2013. "The earnings of immigrants and the quality adjustment of immigrant human capital," IZA Journal of Migration, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 2(1), pages 1-18, December.
    3. Robert C. M. Beyer, 2017. "The Performance of Immigrants in the German Labor Market," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 892, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    4. Dustmann, Christian & Glitz, Albrecht, 2011. "Migration and Education," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    5. Stuart Campbell, 2013. "Over-education among A8 migrants in the UK," DoQSS Working Papers 13-09, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
    6. Ibrahim Sirkeci & Necla Acik & Bradley Saunders, 2014. "Discriminatory labour market experiences of A8 national high skilled workers in the UK," Border Crossing, Transnational Press London, UK, vol. 2014(1402), pages 17-31, September.
    7. Shirley Dex & Jo Lindley, 2007. "Labour market job matching for UK minority ethnic groups," Working Papers 2007003, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2007.
    8. Beyer, Robert, 2016. "The Labor Market Performance of Immigrants in Germany," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145799, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    9. Lubomira Anastassova, 2010. "Are Immigrants Paid Less for Education?," LIS Working papers 535, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    10. Sanromá, Esteban & Ramos, Raul & Simón, Hipólito, 2008. "The Portability of Human Capital and Immigrant Assimilation: Evidence for Spain," IZA Discussion Papers 3649, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Nielsen, Chantal Pohl, 2007. "Immigrant overeducation : evidence from Denmark," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4234, The World Bank.
    12. Sandra Nieto & Alessia Matano & Raul Ramos, 2013. "“Skill mismatches in the EU: Immigrants vs. natives”," AQR Working Papers 201310, University of Barcelona, Regional Quantitative Analysis Group, revised Oct 2013.
    13. Stefano Visintin & Kea Tijdens & Maarten van Klaveren, 2015. "Skill mismatch among migrant workers: evidence from a large multi-country dataset," IZA Journal of Migration, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-34, December.
    14. Ibrahim Sirkeci & Necla Acik & Bradley Saunders, 2014. "Discriminatory labour market experiences of A8 national high skilled workers in the UK," Border Crossing, Transnational Press London, UK, vol. 4(1-2), pages 17-31, September.
    15. Pamela Lenton, 2011. "Part time employment and happiness: A cross-country analysis," Working Papers 2011001, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2011.
    16. Esteve Sanromá & Raúl Ramos & Hipólito Simón, 2015. "Portability of Human Capital and Immigrant Overeducation in Spain," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 34(2), pages 223-241, April.
    17. Chantal Nielsen, 2011. "Immigrant over-education: evidence from Denmark," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 24(2), pages 499-520, April.

    More about this item


    over-education; earnings; immigrants; assimilation.;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination

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