NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Why Do Skilled Immigrants Struggle in the Labor Market? A Field Experiment with Six Thousand Resumes

Philip Oreopoulos

NBER Working Paper No. 15036
Issued in June 2009
NBER Program(s):   LS

Thousands of resumes were sent in response to online job postings across multiple occupations in Toronto to investigate why Canadian immigrants, allowed in based on skill, struggle in the labor market. Resumes were constructed to plausibly represent recent immigrants under the point system from the three largest countries of origin (China, India, and Pakistan) and Britain, as well as non-immigrants with and without ethnic-sounding names. In addition to names, I randomized where applicants received their undergraduate degree, whether their job experience was gained in Toronto or Mumbai (or another foreign city), whether they listed being fluent in multiple languages (including French). The study produced four main findings: 1) Interview request rates for English-named applicants with Canadian education and experience were more than three times higher compared to resumes with Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani names with foreign education and experience (5 percent versus 16 percent), but were no different compared to foreign applicants from Britain. 2) Employers valued experience acquired in Canada much more than if acquired in a foreign country. Changing foreign resumes to include only experience from Canada raised callback rates to 11 percent. 3) Among resumes listing 4 to 6 years of Canadian experience, whether an applicant’s degree was from Canada or not, or whether the applicant obtained additional Canadian education or not had no impact on the chances for an interview request. 4) Canadian applicants that differed only by name had substantially different callback rates: Those with English-sounding names received interview requests 40 percent more often than applicants with Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani names (16 percent versus 11 percent). Overall, the results suggest considerable employer discrimination against applicants with ethnic names or with experience from foreign firms.

download in pdf format
   (951 K)

email paper

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the September 2009 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

This paper is available as PDF (951 K) or via email.

Acknowledgments

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Bertrand and Mullainathan w9873 Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination
Bloom, Grenier, and Gunderson w4672 The Changing Labor Market Position of Canadian Immigrants
Lang and Lehmann w17450 Racial Discrimination in the Labor Market: Theory and Empirics
Borjas w3691 Immigration Policy, National Origin, and Immigrant Skills: A Comparison of Canada and the United States
Borjas and Friedberg w15406 Recent Trends in the Earnings of New Immigrants to the United States
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us