IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Effects of Immigrants on African-American Earnings: A Jobs- Level Analysis of the New York City Labor Market, 1979-89


  • David R. Howell

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)

  • Elizabeth J. Mueller

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)


The improvement in the relative economic status of African-American Workers in the 1960's and 1970's was reversed in the 1980's, a decade that also featured a collapse in the relative (and real) wages of the last skilled (Bound and Freeman, 1992; Blau and Kahn, 1992; Levy and Murnane, 1992). At the same time, the U.S. experienced the largest absolute and per capita levels of immigration since the early part of the century. Significantly, this recent wave of immigrants was far less skilled, at least in terms of educational attainment, than earlier waves of immigrants in the post-war period. Friedberg and Hunt (1995) report that 43% of new immigrants did not possess the equivalent of a high school degree. And according to a recent study by david Jaeger (1995), in the 50 largest metropolitan areas employed male immigrants were about 16% of the civilian workforce with less than a high school degree in 1980; by 1990 this figure was over 30%. For women, this figure rose from 17% to almost 28%. Not surprisingly, there is a concern that growing numbers of immigrant workers have negatively affected the standing of African-American in urban labor markets. But with the exception of Borjas, Freeman and Katz (1996) and Jaeger (1995), the consensus in the research community appears to be that there has been little if any negative wage effects (see the surveys by Borjas, 1994; Friedberg and Hunt, 1995; and DeFreitas, 1996; National Academy of Sciences 1997). This is a rather surprising finding, since it requires a nearly instantaneous adjustment to labor supply shocks in local labor markets. Borjas (1994) terms this an "unresolved puzzle." Indeed, it is a particularly puzzling since the sharp growth in the supply of low-skill immigrants took place during a decade in which the power of labor market institutions to shelter low-skill workers from intense wage competition was severely eroded. In our view, the failure to find earnings effects from sharply rising supplies of low-skill foreign-born workers in increasingly deregulated labor markets may reflect the dominant research methodology, which has been to explore foreign-born workers in increasingly deregulated labor markets may reflect the dominant research methodology, which has been to explore these effects with across- metropolitan tests. Since immigrants are overwhelmingly concentrated in a small number of urban labor markets, such as Los Angeles, New York, Houston, San Francisco, and Miami, we would expect wage effects to be concentrated in these same cities.

Suggested Citation

  • David R. Howell & Elizabeth J. Mueller, 1998. "The Effects of Immigrants on African-American Earnings: A Jobs- Level Analysis of the New York City Labor Market, 1979-89," Macroeconomics 9802002, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:9802002 Note: Type of Document - Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC; to print on PostScript; pages: 38; figures: included

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rachel M. Friedberg & Jennifer Hunt, 1995. "The Impact of Immigrants on Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 23-44, Spring.
    2. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
    3. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 1992. "Race and Gender Pay Differentials," NBER Working Papers 4120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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 1333-1381, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


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

    Cited by:

    1. Simonetta LONGHI & Peter NIJKAMP & Jacques POOT, 2008. "Meta-Analysis Of Empirical Evidence On The Labour Market Impacts Of Immigration," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 27, pages 161-191.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics


    Access and download statistics


    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:wpa:wuwpma:9802002. 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: (EconWPA). General contact details of provider: .

    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.