National Origin and the Skills of Immigrants in the Postwar Period
NBER Working Paper No. 3575
The postwar period witnessed major changes in U.S. immigration policy and in economic and political conditions in many of the source countries. As a result, the size, origin, and skill composition of immigrant flows changed substantially. This paper uses the Public Use Samples of the five decennial Census between 1940 and 1980 to document the extent of these changes. The empirical analysis yields two substantive results. First, almost all of the measures of skills or labor market success available in the data document a steady deterioration in the skills and labor market performance of successive immigrants waves over the postwar period, with this trend accelerating since 1960. Second, the study suggests that a single factor, the changing national origin mix of the immigrant flow, is almost entirely responsible for this trend.
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