NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Rethinking the Effects of Immigration on Wages

Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano, Giovanni Peri

NBER Working Paper No. 12497
Issued in August 2006
NBER Program(s):   ITI   LS

This paper asks the following question: what was the effect of surging immigration on average and individual wages of U.S.-born workers during the period 1990-2004? We emphasize the need for a general equilibrium approach to analyze this problem. The impact of immigrants on wages of U.S.-born workers can be evaluated only by accounting carefully for labor market and capital market interactions in production. Using such a general equilibrium approach we estimate that immigrants are imperfect substitutes for U.S.- born workers within the same education-experience-gender group (because they choose different occupations and have different skills). Moreover, accounting for a reasonable speed of adjustment of physical capital we show that most of the wage effects of immigration accrue to native workers within a decade. These two facts imply a positive and significant effect of the 1990-2004 immigration on the average wage of U.S.-born workers overall, both in the short run and in the long run. This positive effect results from averaging a positive effect on wages of U.S.-born workers with at least a high school degree and a small negative effect on wages of U.S.-born workers with no high school degree.

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This paper was revised on May 19, 2008

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Published:

  • Ottaviano, Gianmarco and Giovanni Peri. “Rethinking the Effects of Immigration on Wages: New Data and Analysis from 1990- 2004” IPC IN FOCUS, the American Immigration Law Foundation's Immigration Policy Center 5, 8 (October 2006). ,
  • Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri, 2012. "Rethinking The Effect Of Immigration On Wages," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 152-197, 02.

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