Crossing Borders in the Information Age: The Impact of Highly Skilled Migrants on US Labor Market Outcomes

Jeanne Batalova, University of California, Irvine
Frank D. Bean, University of California, Irvine

Social scientists have given increased attention to the question of whether immigrants are labor market complements or substitutes for native workers. Whereas efforts to explain the effect of less skilled foreign-born workers have produced and tested a number of intriguing hypotheses, the impact of college-educated workers has gathered scant theoretical and empirical attention. Employing 1990 Census data, we seek to examine the nature and extent of the effect of highly-skilled immigrants on the earnings of native-born and foreign-born professionals across U.S. labor markets. First, the paper explores the characteristics of the American highly-skilled labor market as well as examines the distribution of foreign-born professionals compared to that of overall highly-skilled workforce across places, occupation, and industries. Second, using hierarchical linear modeling, we investigate the effect of the immigrant proportion of the highly-skilled workforce on the earnings of native (minorities, in particular) and foreign-born professionals, controlling for workers’ social and human capital characteristics as well as labor market characteristics.

Presented in Session 96: Immigrant Labor Market Integration and Impact