Career Placement of Skilled Migrants in the U.S. Labor Market: A Dynamic Approach

By Gifford, Benjamin | Yale Economic Review, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Career Placement of Skilled Migrants in the U.S. Labor Market: A Dynamic Approach


Gifford, Benjamin, Yale Economic Review


AS A COUNTRY whose economic success has historically hinged on the work of foreign laborers, it is important to understand the situation facing current immigrants to the United States. Do immigrants with comparable skills, but from different countries, obtain similar jobs upon arrival to the U.S., or do their countries of origin have an impact on job placement? Does the future hold growth or stagnation for present-day immigrants? In her recent study, "Career Placement of Skilled Migrants in the U.S. Labor Market: A Dynamic Approach," Ileana Neagu, of the World Bank Development Research Group, attempts to answers these questions. Neagu uses data from the 1980, 1990 and 2000 censuses and organizes it to group the immigrants based on their year of immigration. She then uses these multiple stages of data to dynamically track the aggregate statistics of immigrants over the decades.

One of the unique features of Neagu's research is its focus on occupational placement rather than income, which gives it the distinct advantage of consistency across different regions and eras, without having to account for factors like inflation and cost of living. She measures occupational placement with three criteria - relative "prestige" of the job, plus two different measurements of the educational level required for a given job. Neagu finds that even when holding education and other factors constant, initial job placement varies widely depending on country of origin. Her research also concludes that initial placement and growth are inversely related.

How can this wide variability in initial placement and subsequent advancement be explained? Neagu uses information about immigrants' country of origin to predict these patterns. Statistically significant factors about the country of origin, such as GDP, distance from the U.S., levels of military conflict and the prevalence of spoken English, all help explain the variation in job placement for 1 985 arrivals. For example, immigrants from Australia, an English-speaking country with a relatively high GDP, initially fared better than immigrants from Laos.

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