NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Are Immigrants the Best and Brightest U.S. Engineers?

Jennifer Hunt

NBER Working Paper No. 18696
Issued in January 2013
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Using the American Community Surveys of 2009 and 2010, I examine the wages of immigrants compared to natives among engineering workers. Among workers in engineering occupations, immigrants are the best and brightest thanks to their high education level, enjoying a wage distribution shifted to the right of the native distribution. Among workers with an engineering degree, however, immigrants underperform natives, despite somewhat higher education. The gap is particularly large in the lower tail, where immigrants work in occupations not commensurate with their education. In the upper tail, immigrants fail to be promoted out of technical occupations to management, handicapped by imperfect English and their underrepresentation among older age groups. In both samples, immigrants from the highest income countries are the best and brightest workers.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18696

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