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Immigration Reform and the Earnings of Latino Workers: Do Employer Sanctions Cause Discrimination?

  • C. Bansak
  • S. Raphael

This paper investigates whether employer sanctions for hiring undocumented workers introduced by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) adversely affected the hourly earnings of Latino workers in the southwestern United States. We exploit the staggering of the sanctions and employee verification requirements across sectors to estimate this effect. In particular, IRCA’s employer-sanctions provisions were not extended to agricultural employers until 2 years after their imposition on nonagricultural employers. Hence, Latino agricultural workers provide a control group against which to compare changes in the wages of Latinos in nonagricultural employment. We find substantial pre-post IRCA declines in the hourly earnings of Latino nonagricultural workers relative to Latinos in agriculture. This pattern, however, is considerably stronger for Latino men than Latina women. We do not observe similar intersectoral shifts in relative wages among non-Latino white workers. In fact, the relative wage changes for non-Latino white workers are of the opposite sign. Finally, the pre-post IRCA relative decline in Latino nonagricultural wages reverses the pre-IRCA trend in which the relative earnings of Latino nonagricultural workers had been increasing.

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Paper provided by University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty in its series Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers with number 1181-98.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1181-98
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  1. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
  2. B. Lowell & Jay Teachman & Zhongren Jing, 1995. "Unintended consequences of Immigration Reform: Discrimination and hispanic employment," Demography, Springer, vol. 32(4), pages 617-628, November.
  3. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Stephen J. Trejo, 1997. "The Demand for Hours of Labor: Direct Evidence from California," NBER Working Papers 5973, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Kenney, Genevieve M & Wissoker, Douglas A, 1994. "An Analysis of the Correlates of Discrimination Facing Young Hispanic Job-Seekers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 674-83, June.
  5. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
  6. Black, Dan A, 1995. "Discrimination in an Equilibrium Search Model," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 309-33, April.
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