Immigration in a Changing Economy

California’s Experience

by Kevin F. McCarthy, Georges Vernez


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The current national debate on immigration policy is especially intense in California, home to one-third of the country’s immigrants. Much of this debate consists of advocates stating their views without the benefit of a nonpartisan assessment of the issue and the challenges it poses for the state. Our study provides such an assessment by examining how immigration has interacted with other demographic and economic trends in California since the 1960s. This three-year study, the first to take a 30-year perspective, profiles the changing character of recent immigrants and considers their contribution to the economy, their effects on other workers and the public sector, and their educational and economic success. Its findings can provide lessons for other states, the nation, and even other countries.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    The Changing Character of Recent Immigration to California

  • Chapter Three

    Profile of California’s Recent Immigrants

  • Chapter Four

    Effects on the Socio-Demographic Profile of the State

  • Chapter Five

    Integration of Immigrants

  • Chapter Six

    The Changing Economy and the Immigrant Labor Force

  • Chapter Seven

    The Changing Role of Immigrants in the Economy

  • Chapter Eight

    Immigrants’ Effects on the Economy

  • Chapter Nine

    Effects on Native-Born Workers

  • Chapter Ten

    Effects on the Public Sector: The New Challenge

  • Chapter Eleven

    Discussion and Policy Implications

  • Appendix A

    Advisory Board

  • Appendix B

    Estimated Legal Status

  • Appendix C

    Additional Information on the California Economy and Immigration

  • Appendix D

    Estimating the Effects of Immigration on the Employment and Earnings of the Native-Born Population

The research was carried out at RAND in the Center for Research on Immigration Policy in collaboration with the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the defense agencies.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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