Study Finds Widening Wage Gap Between Immigrant and U.S.-Born Workers
For Immediate Release: April 18, 2006
Contact: Lynn Erskine, 202-293-5380 x115
Washington, DC: A new report by economists John
Schmitt and Jonathan Wadsworth finds that the earnings gap between
immigrant and U.S.-born workers increased substantially between 1980
"It's not the border that's broken but the
U.S. labor market," said John Schmitt, economist at the Center for
Economic and Policy Research. "There is a widening economic gap between
immigrants and U.S.-born workers which reflects the broader
deterioration in wage and working conditions for less-skilled and
The report, "Changing Patterns in the Relative Economic Performance of
Immigrants to Great Britain and the United States, 1980-2000," was
written by John Schmitt, economist at the Center for Economic and
Policy Research, and Jonathan Wadsworth, economist at the Centre for
Economic Performance, London School of Economics. Schmitt and
Wadsworth analyzed data from the Decennial Censuses of 1980, 1990, and
2000 to assess changes in the pace of the economic assimilation of
immigrants. Overall, they found that immigrant workers in the U.S.
lagged farther behind U.S.-born workers in 2000 than they had in the
previous two decades.
In 2000, male immigrants earned, on average, 18.4 percent less per hour
than U.S.-born men. (The gap was only 9.3 percentage points in 1980.)
Female immigrants earned, on average, 10.7 percent less per hour than
U.S.-born women. (The gap was only 3.4 percent in 1980.) Even after
controlling for age and education, the immigrant-earnings gap for men
and women increased between 1980 and 2000.
The economists also examined the number of years it took the average
immigrant to match the earnings of the average U.S.-born worker. They
found that the length of time had increased substantially between 1980
and 2000. In 1980, male immigrants achieved rough earnings parity with
U.S.-born male workers after 16-20 years. By 2000, it took male
immigrants over 30 years. In 1980, immigrant women typically took 11-15
years before achieving earnings parity with U.S.-born female workers.
By 2000, it took them 21-30 years.
Part of the deterioration in the economic situation of immigrants stems
from the decline in the educational attainment of immigrants relative
to U.S.-born workers over the period. Even after controlling for the
drop in their education rates, however, immigrants generally fared
worse in 2000 than they had 10 and 20 years earlier.
For the majority of workers in the United States, wage growth for the last 25 years has not kept pace with productivity.
To read the report, click here.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent,
nonpartisan think tank that promotes democratic debate on the most
important economic and social issues affecting people's lives. CEPR's
Advisory Board of Economists includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert
Solow and Joseph Stiglitz; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at
Harvard University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of the
Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.