The Immigrant and Native-born Wage Distributions: Evidence from United States Censuses

Kristin F. Butcher, John DiNardo

NBER Working Paper No. 6630
Issued in July 1998
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Over the past thirty years, immigration has increased, immigrant characteristics have changed, and the relative mean wages of immigrants vis … vis the native born have declined. Using data from four U.S. Censuses (1960 - 1990) we examine changes in the wage structure and their role in explaining comparisons between immigrants and the native-born in mean wages. Inter alia, we document that patterns of comparison between the immigrants and the native-born are not the same for men and for women, and that these differences in immigrant/native-born comparisons among men and women are a consequence of different evolutions in the wage structure. Although virtually ignored in the immigration literature, we return to a well-understood aspect of Blinder/Oaxaca differentials: the extent of measured discrimination depends on the base' prices used for comparison. Contrary to previous work which finds little impact of the wage structure on immigrant/native-born wage differentials, we observe that if the wage structure' had remained as it was in 1970, for example, the decline in immigrant wages relative to the native-born would generally be much smaller than has been observed.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6630

Published: Kristin F. Butcher & John DiNardo, 2002. "The Immigrant and native-born wage distributions: Evidence from United States censuses," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(1), pages 97-121, October. citation courtesy of

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