Immigration: Volume 27


Table of contents

(11 chapters)

List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
Content available

Immigration to what is now the United States has been a contentious issue from the earliest days of the European settlement. Perhaps the earliest recorded incident of contention occurred over 350 years ago in 1654, when 23 Jewish refugees sought refuge into New Amsterdam, fleeing what they rightly believed would be the extension of the Portuguese Inquisition to Recife in Brazil. Peter Stuyvasant's objection to their settlement was rejected by the Dutch West Indies Company. The tension between those opposing further immigration on either social or economic grounds and those favoring it has continued over these three and a half centuries to this very day.

Since 1986, when the immigration Reform and Control Act was passed, migration to the United States has grown steadily. This includes immigrants, nonimmigrants, undocumented immigrants, and border crossers. Immigration averaged nearly one million annually from 1990 to 2002, with family unification accounting for over 70 percent of the new immigrants. The number of nonimmigrants topped 30 million by 2002, most of whom were tourists. Estimates for undocumented aliens topped 400,000 by the turn of the 21st century, in spite of large increases in funding from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and substantial new positions along the Mexican-United States border. The exact number of border crossers is not known, but the federal government has noted that well over 200 million crossings (mostly along the Mexican border) are recorded each year. In response to tighter controls on migrants after 9/11 the numbers coming to the United States dropped in 2003. However, they increased again in 2004. It appears that the figures will increase in the future.

As immigrants live, learn, and earn in the US, the earnings of comparably educated immigrants converge regardless of their country or admission status. Indeed, controlling for initial human capital levels, there is an inverse relationship between immigrant entry earnings and earnings growth. Immigrants initially lacking transferable skills have lower initial earnings but a higher propensity to invest in human capital than natives or high-skill-transferability immigrants. Policies that bring in immigrants lacking immediately transferable skills, such as family-based admission policies, may provide an infusion of undervalued flexible human capital that facilitates innovation and entrepreneurship. Low-skill-transferability immigration may foster the development of immigrant employment that is distinct from native-born employment and possibly reduce employment competition with natives. Those who enter without immediately transferable skills are more likely to be permanent and permanence confers a variety of societal benefits. Because human capital that is not valued in the host-country's labor market is still useful for learning new skills, immigrants who initially lack transferable skills provide the host country an undervalued, highly malleable resource that may promote a vibrant economy in the long run.

One in nine people between the ages of 18 and 64 in the US, and every second foreign-born person in this age bracket, speak Spanish at home. And whereas around 80 percent of adult immigrants in the US from non-English-speaking countries other than Mexico are proficient in English, only about 50 percent of adult immigrants from Mexico are proficient. The use of a language other than English at home, and proficiency in English, are both analyzed in this paper using economic models and data on adult males from the 2000 US Census. The results demonstrate the importance of immigrants’ educational attainment, their age at migration, and years spent in the US to their language skills. The immigrants’ mother tongue is also shown to affect their English proficiency; immigrants with a mother tongue more distant from English being less likely to be proficient. Finally, immigrants living in ethnic–linguistic enclaves have lesser proficiency in English than immigrants who live in predominately English-speaking areas of the US. The results for females are generally very similar to those for males. The findings from an ordered probit approach to estimation are similar to the findings from a binary probit model, and the conclusions drawn from the analyses mirror those in studies based on the 1980 and 1990 US Censuses. Thus, the model of language skills presented appears to be remarkably robust across time and estimation techniques, and between the genders.

This paper examines the determinants of the initial location choices of immigrants who enter the U.S. with different kinds of visas (“green cards”). Conditional logit models with the 48 contiguous U.S. states as the choice set are estimated using population data on immigrants from the Immigration and Naturalization Service between 1971 and 2000 matched to data on state characteristics from the Integrated Public Use Microsamples of the U.S. Census. As in previous research, it is estimated that immigrants have a higher probability of moving to states where individuals from their region of birth are a larger share of the state population, with relatives of legal permanent residents responding most to this factor. In addition, it is estimated that immigrants in all admission categories respond to labor market conditions when choosing where to live, but that these effects are the largest for male employment-based immigrants and, surprisingly, refugees. These relationships are relatively stable across models that include state fixed effects as well as those that allow the coefficients to vary across the four decades available in the data.

Purchasing a home is the largest expenditure many people will make during their lifetime, as well as their greatest source of wealth. There is a homeownership gap between natives and immigrants well documented in the literature. I examine the determinants of homeownership, the value of purchased homes (a measure of potential housing wealth), and the equity owned for those who have purchased a home (a measure of actual housing wealth) for immigrants and natives. When immigrants are separated by citizenship status the homeownership gap between natives and immigrants is shown to be a gap between natives and non-citizen immigrants. Immigrant citizens have ownership outcomes as good or better than natives. Further, the gap reflects a problem in ownership, brought about by age and income distributional differences, not in value or equity for homeowners. All immigrants are predicted to have higher home value and home equity than natives.

The educational and labor market outcomes of the first, first-and-a-half (1.5), second, and third generations of immigrants to the United States (US) and Canada are compared. These countries’ immigration policies have diverged on important dimensions since the 1960s, resulting in large differences in immigrant source country distributions and a much larger emphasis on skill requirements in Canada, making for interesting comparisons. Of particular note is the educational attainment of US immigrants which is currently lower than that in Canada and is expected to influence future second generations causing an existing education gap to grow. This will likely in turn influence earnings where, controlling only for age, the current US second generation has earnings comparable to those of the third generation, whereas the Canadian second generation has higher earnings. Importantly, the role of, and returns to, observable characteristics are significantly different between the US and Canada. Observable characteristics explain little of the difference in earnings outcomes across generations in the US but have remarkable explanatory power in Canada. Controlling for a wide array of characteristics, especially education, has little effect on the US second generation's earnings premium, but causes the Canadian premium to become negative relative to the Canadian third generation. The Canadian 1.5 and second generations’ educational advantage is of benefit in the labor market, but does not receive the same rate of return as it does for the third generation causing a very sizable gap between the current good observed outcomes, and the even better outcomes that would be expected if the 1.5 and second generation received the same rate of return to their characteristics as the third generation. Why the US differs likely follows from a combination of its lower immigration rate, its different selection mechanism, and its settlement policies and practices.

We review the role immigration amnesties have played in US immigration policy, placing them in the context of similar programs embarked upon by other nations. The theory of amnesties suggests rent-seeking, bargaining, and costs as reasons for a country offering an amnesty, often in conjunction with increased border controls, internal enforcement and employer penalties. We model an immigration amnesty in which the destination country has a formal sector employing only legal immigrants, an informal sector employing both legal and illegal immigrants, and open unemployment. The model focuses on the productivity enhancing effects of legalization, and establishes specific conditions under which unemployment, the informal sector and the formal sectors increase/decrease in size. Building on these insights, our empirical work examines Mexican migration to the US. We study who are migrants; among migrants, who are legalized via Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), and who are legalized via sponsorship of family or employer. Furthermore, to measure the impact of amnesty on welfare of migrants, we estimate earnings equations of various migrants groups.

Welfare reform banned newly arrived immigrants who came to the US after 1996 from receiving federally funded benefits for five years. One assessment of the success of the five-year ban is the effect it has on behaviors that determine economic success and the likelihood of becoming a public charge. In this chapter, we investigate the effect of the five-year ban on the employment, hours of work, and wages of low-income women. Our results indicate that welfare reform in general caused a significant increase in the employment of low-educated, unmarried mothers regardless of citizenship. Among non-citizens, welfare reform was associated with a 10 percentage point (26%) increase in employment, a two-hour (15%) increase in hours worked per week, and a 10 percent decrease in wages. Surprisingly, we find little evidence that the five-year ban had any additional effect on the employment, hours of work, and wages of low-educated and unmarried, non-citizen mothers.

This paper examines how changes in immigration policy levers actually affect the skill characteristics of immigrant arrivals using a unique Canadian immigrant landings database. The paper identifies some hypotheses on the possible effects on immigrant skill characteristics of the total immigration rate, the point system weights and immigrant class weights. The “skill” characteristics examined are level of education, age, and fluency in either English or French. Regressions are used to test the hypotheses from Canadian landings data for 1980–2001. It is found that (i) the larger the inflow rate of immigrants the lower the average skill level of the arrivals, (ii) increasing the proportion of skill-evaluated immigrants raises average skill levels, and (iii) increasing point system weights on a specific skill dimension indeed has the intended effect of raising average skill levels in this dimension among arriving principal applicants.

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Research in Labor Economics
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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