Foreign Nurse Importation to the United States and the Supply of Native Registered Nurses

52 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2014

See all articles by Patricia Cortes

Patricia Cortes

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Jessica Pan

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Date Written: July 31, 2014


Importing foreign nurses has been used as a strategy to ease nursing shortages in the United States. The effectiveness of this policy critically depends on the long-run response of native-born nurses. We examine how the immigration of foreign-born registered nurses (RNs) affects the occupational choice and long-run employment decisions of native RNs. Using a variety of empirical strategies that exploit the geographical distribution of immigrant nurses across U.S. cities, we find evidence of large displacement effects — over a 10-year period, for every foreign nurse that migrates to a city, between one and two fewer native nurses are employed in that city. We find similar results at the state level using data on individuals taking the nursing board exam — an increase in the flow of foreign nurses significantly reduces the number of natives sitting for licensure exams in the states that are more dependent on foreign-born nurses compared to those states that are less dependent on foreign nurses. Using data on self-reported workplace satisfaction among a sample of California nurses, we find evidence suggesting that some of the displacement effects could be driven by a decline in the perceived quality of the workplace environment.

JEL Classification: J44, J61

Suggested Citation

Cortes, Patricia and Pan, Jessica, Foreign Nurse Importation to the United States and the Supply of Native Registered Nurses (July 31, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Patricia Cortes (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Jessica Pan

National University of Singapore (NUS) ( email )

1E Kent Ridge Road
NUHS Tower Block Level 7
Singapore, 119228

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