Chinese Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Market: Effects of Post-Tiananmen Immigration Policy

37 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2012

See all articles by Pia M. Orrenius

Pia M. Orrenius

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Madeline Zavodny

University of North Florida; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Agnes Scott College

Emily Kerr

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Abstract

The Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and ensuing government crackdown affected Chinese nationals not only at home but around the world. The U.S. government responded to the events in China by enacting multiple measures to protect Chinese nationals present in the U.S. It first suspended all forced departures among Chinese nationals present in the country as of June 1989 and later gave them authorization to work legally. The Chinese Student Protection Act, passed in October 1992, made those Chinese nationals eligible for lawful permanent resident status. These actions applied to about 80,000 Chinese nationals residing in the U.S. on student or other temporary visas or illegally. Receiving permission to work legally and then a green card is likely to have affected recipients' labor market outcomes. This study uses 1990 and 2000 census data to examine employment and earnings among Chinese immigrants who were likely beneficiaries of the U.S. government's actions. Relative to immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea – countries not covered by the post-Tiananmen immigration policy measures – highly-educated immigrants from mainland China experienced significant employment and earnings gains during the 1990s. Chinese immigrants who arrived in the U.S in time to benefit from the measures also had higher relative earnings in 2000 than Chinese immigrants who arrived too late to benefit. The results suggest that getting legal work status and then a green card has a significant positive effect on skilled migrants' labor market outcomes.

Keywords: immigration, Chinese Student Protection Act, employment, earnings

JEL Classification: J15

Suggested Citation

Orrenius, Pia M. and Zavodny, Madeline and Kerr, Emily, Chinese Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Market: Effects of Post-Tiananmen Immigration Policy. IZA Discussion Paper No. 6287, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1999315

Pia M. Orrenius (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas ( email )

PO Box 655906
Dallas, TX 75265-5906
United States
214-922-5747 (Phone)
214-922-5194 (Fax)

Madeline Zavodny

University of North Florida ( email )

4567 St. Johns Bluff Road, South
Jacksonville, FL 32224-2645
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Agnes Scott College ( email )

United States

Emily Kerr

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

2200 North Pearl Street
PO Box 655906
Dallas, TX 75265-5906
United States

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