Immigrants and the Labor Market

by James P. Smith

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The once-again rapidly expanding numbers of immigrants in the American labor market has not escaped the attention of labor economists. In this paper, the author deals with two issues concerning immigrants on which labor economists have made significant contributions over the last few decades. The first question concerns what has happened to the skill gap between immigrants and Native-born Americans (see Borjas (1995) and Jasso, Rosenzweig, and Smith (2000)). This ‘what happened’ question is followed by ‘why did it happen’ and he offers his answers as to why. The second question concerns what has happened to the education dimension of the skill gap for descendants of immigrants- assimilation across generations. An important form in which this question has been asked is how the recent waves of ethnic immigrants compare with the reality of the generational success of European immigrant experience, a success that has shaped much of mythology surrounding the American immigrant experience.

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