key topic

Migrant–native issues

Migration's impact on the native labor force is a major concern among politicians, policymakers, and the public, and is a key factor in shaping migration policy. Research shows that immigration and emigration have positive and negative implications for the native workforce, and that these often differ sharply from public perceptions and media coverage.

  • Can immigrants ever earn as much as native workers?

    Immigrants initially earn less than natives; the wage gap falls over time, but for many immigrant groups it never closes

    Immigrants contribute to the economic development of the host country, but they earn less at entry and it takes many years for them to achieve parity of income. For some immigrant groups, the wage gap never closes. There is a wide variation across countries in the entry wage gap and the speed of wage assimilation over time. Wage assimilation is affected by year of entry, immigrant skill, ethnicity, and gender. Policies that facilitate assimilation of immigrant workers provide support for education, language, and employment. Such policies can also reduce barriers to entry, encourage naturalization, and target selection of immigrants.
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  • Why do STEM immigrants do better in one country than another?

    Where STEM immigrants were educated strongly influences their economic success and possibly their impact on innovation

    Garnett PicotFeng Hou, April 2019
    Canada, the US, and most Western countries are looking to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) immigrants to boost innovation and economic growth. Canada in particular has welcomed many STEM immigrants over the past quarter of a century. In the US, there is an ongoing debate about whether the H–1B visa program is being used effectively to attract more STEM immigrants. Interestingly, significant differences exist between the two countries in earnings and likely the innovation activity of highly educated immigrants, which highlights the likely role of immigration policy in determining such outcomes.
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  • Crime and immigration

    Do poor labor market opportunities lead to migrant crime?

    Brian Bell, January 2019
    Immigration is one of the most important policy debates in Western countries. However, one aspect of the debate is often mischaracterized by accusations that higher levels of immigration lead to higher levels of crime. The evidence, based on empirical studies of many countries, indicates that there is no simple link between immigration and crime, but legalizing the status of immigrants has beneficial effects on crime rates. Crucially, the evidence points to substantial differences in the impact on property crime, depending on the labor market opportunities of immigrant groups.
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  • The effect of emigration on home-country political institutions

    Migrants can have positive political effects on their home countries’ institutions

    Elisabetta Lodigiani, November 2016
    The number of immigrants from developing countries living in richer, more developed countries has increased substantially during the last decades. At the same time, the quality of institutions in developing countries has also improved. The data thus suggest a close positive correlation between average emigration rates and institutional quality. Recent empirical literature investigates whether international migration can be an important factor for institutional development. Overall, the findings indicate that emigration to institutionally developed countries induces a positive effect on home-country institutions.
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  • Migration and female genital mutilation

    Can migrants help change the social norm?

    Sandrine Mesplé-Somps, August 2016
    More than 100 million women and girls in the world have had their genitals cut for cultural, religious, or other non-medical reasons. Even though international organizations condemn female genital mutilation (FGM), or cutting, as a violation of human rights, and most nations have banned it, it remains prevalent in many African countries, and is slow to decline. This persistence raises questions about the effectiveness of international and national laws prohibiting the practice as well as the potential role of returning migrants in changing embedded cultural norms. Does migration change migrants’ opinions and attitudes to this custom? If so, do they transfer the new norms to their origin countries?
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  • Who benefits from return migration to developing countries?

    Despite returnees being a potential resource, not all developing countries benefit from their return

    Jackline Wahba, February 2015
    Return migration can have multiple benefits. It allows migrants who have accumulated savings abroad to ease credit constraints at home and set up a business. Also, emigrants from developing countries who have invested in their human capital may earn higher wages when they return. However, whether the home country benefits from return migrants depends on the migrant’s success in accumulating savings and human capital and on the home country’s ability to make use of returnees’ skills and investment. To benefit from returnees, home countries need policies that encourage returnees’ investment and labor market reintegration.
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