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The Effect of Changes in the U.S. Wage Structure on Recent Immigrants' Earnings

  • Darren Lubotsky

    (Princeton University)

Since recent immigrants tend to earn less than natives, their relative labor market status has been adversely impacted by an increase in the return to labor market skills and widening wage inequality over the past two decades. To evaluate the magnitude of this effect, this study uses Social Security earnings records matched to recent cross--sections of the SIPP and CPS to estimate the change in the return to skills among native--born workers. This is then used to adjust the earnings gap between immigrants and natives in order to estimate what the gap would have been if the return to skills had remained at its 1980 level. The results suggest that the return to skills rose by 40 percent between 1980 and 1997, leading to a 10 to 15 percentage point decrease in the relative earnings of recent immigrants. Thus examining solely the earnings of recent immigrants may lead to an overly pessimistic picture of their actual labor market skills.

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File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/lab/papers/0110/0110003.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Labor and Demography with number 0110003.

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Date of creation: 14 Oct 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0110003
Note: Type of Document - Latex; prepared on Unix; to print on HP;
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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  1. 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.
  2. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  3. Edin, Per-Anders & LaLonde, Robert J. & Åslund, Olof, 2000. "Emigration of Immigrants and Measures of Immigrant Assimilation: Evidence from Sweden," Working Paper Series 2000:13, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Kristin F. Butcher & John DiNardo, 1998. "The Immigrant and Native-born Wage Distributions: Evidence from United States Censuses," NBER Working Papers 6630, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Wei-Yin Hu, 2000. "Immigrant Earnings Assimilation: Estimates from Longitudinal Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 368-372, May.
  8. Chiswick, Barry R, 1978. "The Effect of Americanization on the Earnings of Foreign-born Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 897-921, October.
  9. MaCurdy, Thomas E., 1982. "The use of time series processes to model the error structure of earnings in a longitudinal data analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 83-114, January.
  10. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
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