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December 1992, Vol. 115, No. 12
How do immigrants fare in the U.S. labor market?
Joseph R. Meisenheimer II
Immigration to the United States has increased markedly in recent decades. In fact, the number of immigrants granted permanent legal residence during the 1980's was the highest since the 1910-19 decade.1 (See chart 1.) Undocumented immigration, although difficult to measure precisely, also appears to have risen.2 These developments have prompted policymakers, employers, labor unions, social scientists, the news media, and the general public to focus anew on immigration and its impact on American society.
One area of interest is the way in which the labor market status of immigrants compares with that of U.S. natives. This issue can be examined using data from a survey conducted in November 1989. This survey showed, for example, that the unemployment rate for immigrants was somewhat higher than the rate for native-born workers, and that the weekly earnings of immigrants who worked full time were significantly lower than those of natives. The survey also pointed to differences in the level of schooling as a major reason for these disparities. Although immigrants and natives aged 25 and older were equally likely to have completed at least 4 years of college, the proportion of immigrants who had completed fewer than 12 years of school was nearly double the proportion of natives. Other factors affecting the labor market status of immigrants include the length of time they had lived in the United States and their fluency in English. This article presents an analysis of the relationship between these factors and immigrants' experiences in the U.S. labor market.
This excerpt is from an article published in the December 1992 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 1989 Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Washington, U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1990).
2 For and in-depth discussion of techniques used to estimate the number of undocumented immigrants, see Frank D. Bean, Barry Edmonson, and Jeffery S. Passel, eds., Undocumented Migration of the United States: IRCA and the Experience of the 1980s (Washington, The RAND Corporation and The Urban Institute, 1990).
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