Low-Skilled Immigrants and the US Labor Market

Brian Duncan and Stephen J. Trejo

in The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Poverty

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393781
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Low-Skilled Immigrants and the US Labor Market

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  • Labour and Demographic Economics
  • Health, Education, and Welfare


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This article discusses the labor market integration of immigrants, the socioeconomic attainment of the U.S.-born descendants of immigrants, and the impact of immigration on the wages and employment opportunities of native workers. Using pooled cross-sectional data on men from the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey, it shows that the employment rates of low-skilled adult immigrants are very high (> 90 percent). Immigrants' wages, however, are low relative to native men of comparable education. The longer immigrants stay in the country, the smaller the earnings gap is, particularly if their English proficiency is high. Comparison of second-generation and third-generation immigrants shows that there are no big differences across the groups in employment rates or earnings. Comparison of first-generation and third-generation immigrants shows that first-generation immigrants work more and earn less even after correcting for education. The big differences across generations are evident when the data are sorted by race/ethnicity. Any analysis of intergenerational progress is likely to be biased if “selective ethnic attrition” is not taken into account. The article concludes that increased immigration is likely to have had only a modest negative effect on low-skilled native workers.

Keywords: immigrants; labor market integration; wages; employment opportunities; low-skilled workers; native workers

Article.  18982 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Labour and Demographic Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare

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