The Economic Adjustment of Immigrants to Twelve Nations of Latin America and Comparison with United States

124 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2013

Date Written: November 6, 2012


The United Nations estimates that 41 percent of international migration involves the movement of peoples from one less developed nation to another (United Nations, 2009). Little quantitative research has been reported about the employment fate of such migrants — the proportions that thrive or suffer as a consequence of having moved. This is in sharp contrast to developed nations which collect data periodically to study the socioeconomic adjustment of immigrants.

The primary reason offered for this lack of quantitative knowledge is that censuses taken in less developed countries provide little information about international immigrants. The principal nations of Latin America are an exception. Several collected data on immigration to their country that is comparable with each other and with the United States census, particularly for the censuses of 2000. These data may be underutilized because they have been been sparsely tabulated or published in Spanish. These barriers have been eliminated by IPUMS International. It has assembled representative samples of individual census documents for more than 50 nations, edited, standardized, and translated them, and placed them in the public domain. Samples including immigration for 12 Latin American nations are among them.

This analysis studies the economic adjustment of immigrants, focusing on the migrants’ employment and occupational success. Their economic advancement is determined in large part by their education as evaluated by the destination economy. Immigrants to Latin American countries tend to have higher skills than natives, and hence enter at higher SES position. Average upward progress with increased duration of residence is very small. Immigrants who move to a more developed country and accept entry jobs below their skill level may have modestly enhanced economic status over time. This contrasts with the United States, where immigrants from Latin America show significant improvement within five years after arrival.

Keywords: immigration, Latin America, immigrant adjustment, Latin America immigration, Economic adjustment, immigrants, economic status, immigrants, adjustment, immigrants

Suggested Citation

Bogue, Donald, The Economic Adjustment of Immigrants to Twelve Nations of Latin America and Comparison with United States (November 6, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Donald Bogue (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

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