Immigration and National Wages: Clarifying the Theory and the Empirics

70 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2008

See all articles by Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano

Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano

Bocconi University - Department of Economics and Paolo Baffi Centre on Central Banking and Financial Regulation

Giovanni Peri

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2008

Abstract

This paper estimates the effects of immigration on wages of native workers at the national U.S. level. Following Borjas (2003) we focus on national labor markets for workers of different skills and we enrich his methodology and refine previous estimates. We emphasize that a production function framework is needed to combine workers of different skills in order to evaluate the competition as well as cross-skill complementary effects of immigrants on wages. We also emphasize the importance (and estimate the value) of the elasticity of substitution between workers with at most a high school degree and those without one. Since the two groups turn out to be close substitutes, this strongly dilutes the effects of competition between immigrants and workers with no degree. We then estimate the substitutability between natives and immigrants and we find a small but significant degree of imperfect substitution which further decreases the competitive effect of immigrants. Finally, we account for the short run and long run adjustment of capital in response to immigration. Using our estimates and Census data we find that immigration (1990-2006) had small negative effects in the short run on native workers with no high school degree (-0.7%) and on average wages (-0.4%) while it had small positive effects on nativeworkers with no high school degree (+0.3%) and on average native wages (+0.6%) in the long run. These results are perfectly in line with the estimated aggregate elasticities in the labor literature since Katz and Murphy (1992). We also find a wage effect of new immigrants on previous immigrants in the order of negative 6%.

Keywords: Less Educated Workers, Physical Capital Adjustment, Skill Complementarities, Wages

JEL Classification: F22, J31, J61

Suggested Citation

Ottaviano, Gianmarco I.P. and Peri, Giovanni, Immigration and National Wages: Clarifying the Theory and the Empirics (July 2008). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP6916. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1240226

Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Economics and Paolo Baffi Centre on Central Banking and Financial Regulation ( email )

Via Gobbi 5
Milan, 20136
Italy

Giovanni Peri

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States
530-752-3033 (Phone)
530-752-9382 (Fax)

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