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July 1985, Vol. 108, No. 7
Foreign born in the U.S. labor market:
the results of a special survey
The labor market experiences of the foreign born are part of the "success story" of America. Studies of the foreign born show patterns of economic difficulties in the first years after arrival, but substantial upward mobility thereafter. For example, analyzing 1970 Census data, Barry Chiswick found that foreign-born men tend to reach earnings equality with their U.S.-born counterparts in a little over a decade, and after that, they actually have higher earnings.1 Recent data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) on foreign-born U.S. residents provide further confirmation of these earlier findings.
The CPS data show striking similarities between the native-born population and the foreign born who entered the country from 1960 to 1979 with regard to their work experience during 1982. For example, among both groups, about 65 percent had worked at least some time during that recession year, of whom more than half managed to work full time the whole year. Another similarity was that for both groups the proportion experiencing some unemployment was about 20 percent. There also was a close resemblance among both groups in terms of their earnings in 1982. The median annual earnings for the foreign-born workers were $10,405, about 6 percent lower than for the native-born workers ($11,125).
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1 Barry R. Chiswick, "The Economic Progress of Immigrants: Some Apparently Universal Patterns," in Bary R. Chiswick, ed., The Gateway: U.S. Immigration Issues and Policies, Washington, D.C., American Enterprise Institute, 1982. For more detailed analysis, see Barry R. Chiswick, An Analysis of the Economic Progress and Impact of Immigrants, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor (NTS no. PB 80200454), June 1980.
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