THE IMMIGRANTS: Native Wages Distributions 3

Simple Density Estimates: Recent Immigrants and Natives

We have thus far restricted our attention to a comparison between all immigrants and natives. In this subsection we consider the difference between recent immigrants and natives. In figures 3a and 3b we therefore repeat the exercise we performed in the previous two figures, except this time we overlay the distribution of wages of recent immigrants and natives. As was mentioned earlier, a comparison of immigrants who have recently arrived (within the past five years in this analysis) is a direct way to investigate changes in immigrant skills across cohorts. The wages of immigrants overall are a influenced by a myriad of factors, including the length of time immigrants have been in the country, and the size of the arriving cohort in each previous time period, attrition of a cohort due to death and decisions to emigrate read only.


The top twro panels of figure 3a display our estimates for our male 1960 and 1970 census samples. In contrast to figure 2a w’here we considered all immigrant and native-born men, the leftward “shift” of the distribution of recent immigrant wages is quite pronounced. Inter alia, this is attributable to the fact that recent immigrants are much younger than natives taken as a whole, and are the youngest among all immigrants (see Table la.) Likewise, the bottom two panels of figure 3a display our estimates for our male 1980 and 1990 census samples.

One interesting way to describe the difference between the two male wage densities is to compare the difference in the modal recent immigrant and native wrages. In 1960 the modal recent immigrant earns about 29 percent less than the modal native. By 1970, this difference falls to to 10 percent although, this computation slightly overstates the similarity as the leftmost mode is 30 percent lower than the modal native. In terms of magnitude, however, the big changes occur after 1970. Betwreen 1970 and 1980 the difference between the modal immigrant and his native counterpart rises 50 percentage points to 62 percent and then rises another 19 points. By 1990, the modal recent immigrant is nowT making 81 percent less than his native counterpart.


In several respects the changes in the relative distributions for women’s wages are similar, but there is one noteworthy difference. The difference between the modal recent immigrant and native for the years I960, 1970, 1980, and 1990 are 0.20, 0.07, 0.23, and 0.49 respectively. The difference in the male and female immigrant/recent immigrant wage gap in 1980 is particularly noteworthy. Consistent with the evidence for women discussed in section 3.3, the minimum wage seems to play the largest role. This corroborates evidence from the CPS, where wages at or very near the minimum wage represent the modal wage for all women. Therefore, it is not surprising that the mode of wages for recent immigrants and native women show little difference in our 1980 Census data.