NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Earnings of Undocumented Immigrants

George J. Borjas

NBER Working Paper No. 23236
Issued in March 2017
NBER Program(s):AG, LS

Over 11 million undocumented persons reside in the United States, and there has been a heated debate over the impact of legislative or executive efforts to regularize the status of this population. This paper examines the determinants of earnings for undocumented workers. Using newly developed methods that impute undocumented status for foreign-born persons sampled in microdata surveys, the study documents a number of findings. First, the age-earnings profile of undocumented workers lies far below that of legal immigrants and of native workers, and is almost perfectly flat during the prime working years. Second, the unadjusted gap in the log hourly wage between undocumented workers and natives is very large (around 40 percent), but half of this gap disappears once the calculation adjusts for differences in observable socioeconomic characteristics, particularly educational attainment. Finally, the adjusted wage of undocumented workers rose rapidly in the past decade. As a result, there was a large decline in the wage penalty associated with undocumented status. The relatively small magnitude of the current wage penalty suggests that a regularization program may only have a modest impact on the wage of undocumented workers.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23236

 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

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

Contact Us