Region and Country

GDP Per Capita Relative to U.S.

GDP Per Capita











South Africa







United States



Note: GDP = gross domestic product; NA = not available. GDP figures are in constant dollars adjusted for changes in terms of trade. 1991 data was used for Greece, Jamaica, Korea, and Laos. 1990 data was used for Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Nicaragua, Portugal, Taiwan, and Yugoslavia. 1989 data was used for Haiti and U.S.S.R.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Penn World Data Set. WWW site. National Bureau of Economic Research, February 4, 1997.

tremendous variation in incomes among the sending countries as well as the large gap between some of these countries and the United States. For example, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the United States is roughly 7 times as large as that in Ecuador and 15 times as large as that in Nicaragua. The disparity is three to one with the largest source country, Mexico.

With the exception of Japan, income disparities are also quite large with many of the Asian sending countries—a ratio of 11 to 1 with the Philippines and 14 to 1 with India and China. The disparities with Western Europe are considerably smaller, and with many of the Eastern European nations they run as much as 5 to 1. Collectively, the data in Table 5.1 suggest that many immigrants experience large economic benefits from migrating to the United States.

Immigrant wages in the United States typically far exceed those in their home countries. How do they compare with the wages of native-born workers? And what factors account for any immigrant wage deficit that may exist? Tables 5.2 and 5.3 answer the first question. For example, the hourly wages of foreign-born men in 1990 were 7 percent lower than those of native-born male workers, and annual earnings were 15 percent lower (Table 5.2). These gaps vary greatly across the sending countries, ranging from wages that are only one-half of native wages among recent Mexican male immigrants to wage premiums among European and Canadian male immigrants.

Recent arrivals earned considerably less than natives throughout the last three decades. The wage gap between recent immigrants and natives widened substantially in more recent years: in 1970 the gap for men was about 10 percent of native wages; in 1990 it was 22 percent. Gaps in men's annual earnings were larger than those in hourly wages but showed a similar trend, widening from about 19 percent in 1970 to about 35 percent in 1990.

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