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Economic Assimilation of Foreign-Born Workers in the United States: An Overlapping Rotating Panel Analysis

  • Seik Kim
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This paper presents new evidence on whether foreign-born workers assimilate, which we define as the degree to which the wages of foreign-born workers approach those of comparable native-born workers with additional time spent in the United States. The key econometric challenge is to separate wage growth due to assimilation from composition effects. The composition of immigrant population varies over time due to variation in initial skill levels at year of entry and also because of selective return migration. While much of the existing literature relies on cross-section data, we use longitudinal data on native-born and foreign-born populations which allows us to control for initial skill composition. An advantage of using the Current Population Survey (CPS) is that one can construct cross-section samples by ignoring its longitudinal structure. We compare cross-section and panel models of foreign-native gap in wage growth, and the results suggest that analyses based on repeated cross-section studies are biased upward by fixed unobserved heterogeneity. Controlling for this heterogeneity reverses the conventional result of economic assimilation. Overall, we find little evidence of a narrowing of the foreign-native gap in economic performance. New immigrants from Central and South America earn lower wages than natives, and this gap widens with time in the U.S. labor market. The wages of new immigrants from Europe and Asia exceed those of natives and there is no strong evidence of convergence. We account for sample attrition in the presence of nonrandom outmigration and find that our results are robust to panel attrition.

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Paper provided by University of Washington, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number UWEC-2008-19.

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Handle: RePEc:udb:wpaper:uwec-2008-19
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  1. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economic Benefits from Immigration," NBER Working Papers 4955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Güell, Maia & Hu, Luojia, 2003. "Estimating the Probability of Leaving Unemployment Using Uncompleted Spells from Repeated Cross-Section Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 3957, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  10. 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.
  11. Borjas, George J, 1985. "Assimilation, Changes in Cohort Quality, and the Earnings of Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 463-89, October.
  12. Christopher R. Bollinger & Barry T. Hirsch, 2006. "Match Bias from Earnings Imputation in the Current Population Survey: The Case of Imperfect Matching," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 483-520, July.
  13. Bernt Bratsberg & Erling Barth & Oddbjørn Raaum, 2006. "Local Unemployment and the Relative Wages of Immigrants: Evidence from the Current Population Surveys," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 243-263, May.
  14. Paracchi, F. & Welch, F., 1992. "How Representative Are Matched Cross Sections? Evidence from the Current Population Survey," Working Papers 92-53, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  15. Borjas, George J, 1989. "Immigrant and Emigrant Earnings: A Longitudinal Study," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 27(1), pages 21-37, January.
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  18. Kristin F. Butcher & John DiNardo, 2002. "The Immigrant and native-born wage distributions: Evidence from United States censuses," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(1), pages 97-121, October.
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  21. repec:bla:restud:v:72:y:2005:i:2:p:343-366 is not listed on IDEAS
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  25. Chunrong Ai & Xiaohong Chen, 2003. "Efficient Estimation of Models with Conditional Moment Restrictions Containing Unknown Functions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1795-1843, November.
  26. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
  27. Seik Kim, . "Sample Attrition in the Presence of Population Attrition," Working Papers UWEC-2009-02, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  28. Robert J. LaLonde & Robert H. Topel, 1992. "The Assimilation of Immigrants in the U. S. Labor Market," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration and the Workforce: Economic Consequences for the United States and Source Areas, pages 67-92 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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