Why Are Some Immigrant Groups More Successful than Others?

Edward P. Lazear

NBER Working Paper No. 23548
Issued in June 2017, Revised in October 2017
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Success of immigrants in the US measured by earnings or education varies dramatically by country of origin. For example, average educational attainment among immigrants ranges from 9 to 16 years, depending on origin country. Perhaps surprisingly, immigrants from Algeria have higher educational attainment than those from Israel or Japan. Also true is that there is a strong inverse relation of attainment to number of immigrants from that country. There is excess supply of potential immigrants to desirable destination country like the US and the rationing rule results in selection from the top of a source country’s ability distribution. As a consequence, average immigrant attainment is inversely related to the number admitted from an origin country and positively related to the population of that country. The results are supported by results from the American Community Survey. The model’s three variables explain 73% of the variation in educational attainment of immigrant groups. Additionally, a structural model that is more explicit in the assumptions and predictions also fits the data well.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23548

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