Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

Gender-Specific Labor Market Performance of Mediterranean Immigrants in Germany and Hispanic Immigrants in the United States Compared

Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

Gender-Specific Labor Market Performance of Mediterranean Immigrants in Germany and Hispanic Immigrants in the United States Compared

Article excerpt

WOLFGANG SEIFERT [*]

ABSTRACT

This article examines labor market mobility of Hispanic immigrants in the United States and immigrants from recruitment countries in Germany. The data comes from two similar longitudinal samples conducted in Germany and the United States. This allows for a comparison of labor mobility between immigrants and natives in both countries. The comparison reveals a higher degree of mobility on all levels among immigrants in the United States. Over time, Hispanic immigrants were able to reduce the income gap compared to natives while this gap increased in Germany. This higher degree of mobility can be traced back to two factors: A higher human capital among Hispanic immigrants and a more liberal labor market regime in the United States.

Introduction: Different approaches towards the integration of immigrants in Germany and the United States

THE UNITED STATES AND GERMANY have very different attitudes towards immigration. The United States has a tradition of immigration which is still alive. Germany has 7.3 million foreigners living on its territory but has not officially declared itself a country of immigration. Therefore, no law exists that regulates legal immigration into Germany (Dittgen, 1998). There are laws for certain groups like ethnic Germans (Aussiedler), and for certain types of migration like family unification, but no general immigration law exists (Neuman, 1998). Before a change in law in 1991, becoming a German citizen was difficult and also expensive. This was a result of Germany's definition of citizenship that was based on descent (ius sanguinis). Since the change in law, immigrants are entitled to citizenship after having lived in Germany for 15 years. Starting in the year 2,000, immigrants can apply for citizenship after being in Germany for 8 years. Citizenship might not be granted if the applicant does not speak German, has a criminal record or depends on unemployment or social welfare benefits. The children of immigrants in the year 2,000 will receive dual citizenship. However, when they reach 23 years of age, they will have to decide which citzenship to keep.

Until the 1970s immigration in the United States was regarded as being the result of a self-selection process. This was based on the assumption that only the best and most highly motivated workers would come to the United States (Chiswick, 1978, 1980). Therefore, positive assumptions were made with regard to the integration of immigrants. It was assumed that immigrants would rapidly adapt to the requirements of the labor market and would achieve the average American income within 15 years (Chiswick, 1978, 1980). Later longitudinal studies reveal that the period in which immigrants reach the American mean is substantially longer (Borjas, 1985; Chiswick, 1986). This was caused by a change in the composition of immigrants. In 1960, three quarters of the foreign born in America were of European origin. Thirty years later, less than one-third were of European origin. The average level of education of immigrants, however, decreased not only as a result of the lower percentage of European immigrants but decreased a lso within certain immigrant groups. Whereas male Mexican immigrants who arrived before 1960 had on average completed 9 years of school, those Mexican men who arrived between 1987 and 1988 had only completed 5.3 years of school (Bean et al., 1994:86).

In comparison to immigration in the United States, Germany had a completely different pattern of selection. Between 1955 and 1973 immigrants were recruited by the State. The employment of foreign workers was considered to be a short-term solution to bridge periods of extreme labor shortage. Foreign workers received job contracts only for a specified period of time (Seifert 1995). This "guest-worker system" was intended to keep the foreign labor force flexible and adaptable to the demands of the German labor market. …

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