Education and the
Accumulation of Credentials
by the Native Born
In part, lower entry-level earnings for immigrants in the United States result from the larger skills gap faced by immigrants in that country, as was pointed out in Chapter 1. Yet as has been shown in Chapter 3, apart from the case of Hispanics, who are in any case relatively small groups in Canada and Australia, the skills of immigrants to the United States from particular origin groups are actually as high as, or higher than, those of their counterparts in either Canada or Australia. Very clearly, higher native-born education in the United States is a primary cause of the lower entrance earnings for immigrant groups there. Borjas ( 1990, 209) referred to this fact, without emphasizing its significance. 1 This significance derives from the fact that native-born educational levels reflect a powerful and autonomous institutional force in society. Aggregate levels of education in a population result from a complex set of processes which are social and cultural as well as economic, and which are retained by individuals to significant economic effect throughout the life course. Educational levels are not a simple function of contemporary labor market demand. Furthermore, educational institutions do not affect the native born and immigrants in the same way.
This chapter explores the impact of native-born education further in three respects. First, we examine overall trends in educational attainments in the three countries. Rates of growth in educational attainment have been different in the three countries, and temporal changes only slowly work their way through the age-graded occupational hierarchy. The overall competitive environment for immigrants varies by the age of the native-born comparison group. Furthermore, past and contemporary changes in educational attainment can be projected into the future. Pro-