explore this possibility, Tables 5.6 and 5.7 illustrate the huge differences in educational attainment and earnings across national origin groups in 1990, for men and women, respectively.

The variation in schooling levels across these sending countries is enormous for both men and women. Mean years of schooling among men range from 8 years for immigrants from Mexico or Portugal, to about 15 years for immigrants from such diverse countries as Austria, India, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Similarly, male immigrants from El Salvador or Mexico earn 36 to 37 percent less than natives, while male immigrants from Australia or South Africa earn 34 to 44 percent more than natives.

The patterns for women are similar: countries with high levels of education and relative wages for immigrant men also have high levels of education and relative wages for immigrant women. However, the dispersion in both measures tends to be somewhat smaller among immigrant women. Male and female immigrants from Taiwan, for example, have the highest average level of education among immigrants—16.4 years for men and 14.9 for women. However, at the other end of the distribution, Mexican immigrants have among the lowest average levels of education among both men and women immigrants, but the levels for women—8.3 years—are not as low as those for men—7.7 years.11

In view of these sizable earnings differentials across national origin groups, the changes in the source countries may explain part of the decline in immigrants' relative earnings. To see whether it does, immigrant flows are separated into five regions: Europe or Canada, Mexico, other Latin America, Asia, and other countries. Table 5.8 gives the fraction of the immigrant flow that originates in each of these regions, as well as the relative wage of immigrants from each region in the 1990 census (that is, the percentage differential in wages between each group of immigrants and natives). The average relative wage of immigrants in 1990 can be defined by:

(1)

where pi gives the fraction of the immigrant flow that originates in region i as of 1990, and wi gives the relative wage of immigrants originating in that region.

Consider the following counterfactual exercise: What would be the average wage of immigrants in 1990 if the national origin composition of the immigrant flow had not changed between 1970 and 1990? Table 5.8 also reports the na-

11  

These differences cannot be attributed to the fact that some national origin groups have lived in the United States for longer periods. There is substantial dispersion in both educational attainment and relative wages even among male and female immigrants who have been in the country more than 10 years.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement