IZA World of Labor

Performance of migrants

  • Immigrants’ occupational mobility—Down and back up again

    The occupational status of most immigrants initially declines but then increases

    Aslan Zorlu, September 2016
    Evidence suggests that immigrants face an initial decline in their occupational status when they enter the host country labor market but that their position improves as they acquire more country-specific human, cultural, and occupational capital. High-skilled immigrants from countries that are economically, linguistically, and culturally different from the host country experience the greatest decline and the steepest subsequent increase in their occupational status. In the context of sharp international competition to attract high-skilled immigrants, this adjustment pattern is contradictory and discourages potential high-skilled migrants.
  • What are the consequences of regularizing undocumented immigrants?

    When countries regularize undocumented residents, their work, wages, and human capital investment opportunities change

    Sherrie A. Kossoudji, September 2016
    Millions of people enter (or remain in) countries without permission as they flee violence, war, or economic hardship. Regularization policies that offer residence and work rights have multiple and multi-layered effects on the economy and society, but they always directly affect the labor market opportunities of those who are regularized. Large numbers of undocumented people in many countries, a new political willingness to fight for human and civil rights, and dramatically increasing refugee flows mean continued pressure to enact regularization policies.
  • Ethnic enclaves and immigrant economic integration

    High-quality enclave networks encourage labor market success for newly arriving immigrants

    Simone Schüller, August 2016
    Immigrants are typically not evenly distributed within host countries; instead they tend to cluster in particular neighborhoods. But does clustering in ethnic enclaves help explain the persistent differences in employment rates and earnings between immigrants and the native population? Empirical studies consistently find that residing in an enclave can increase earnings. While it is still ambiguous whether mainly low-skilled immigrants benefit, or whether employment probabilities are affected, it is clear that effects are driven by enclave “quality” (in terms of income, education, and employment rates) rather than enclave size.
  • Integrating refugees into labor markets

    Economic integration of refugees into their host country is important and benefits both parties

    For the first time since the Second World War, the total number of refugees amounts to more than 50 million people. Only a minority of these refugees seek asylum, and even fewer resettle in developed countries. At the same time, politicians, the media, and the public are worried about a lack of economic integration. Refugees start at a lower employment and income level, but subsequently “catch up” to the level of family unification migrants. However, both refugees and family migrants do not “catch up” to the economic integration levels of labor migrants. A faster integration process would significantly benefit refugees and their new host countries.
  • Legalizing undocumented immigrants

    While legalization benefits most undocumented immigrants, deciding how to regularize them is challenging

    Cynthia Bansak, March 2016
    Addressing unauthorized immigration is controversial. Countries have adopted a variety of legalization programs, ranging from temporary visa programs to naturalization. Research in the US focused on past amnesty programs finds improved labor market outcomes for newly legalized immigrants. Findings are more mixed for European countries. Studies suggest that regularization of undocumented immigrants can result in increased use of public benefits and reduced formal labor market participation. Despite widespread disagreement, legalization is widely used in practice.
  • Consequences of the obesity epidemic for immigrants

    When migrants move to countries with high obesity rates, does assimilation lead to labor market penalties and higher health care costs?

    Laura Argys, December 2015
    Upon arrival in a host country, immigrants often have lower obesity rates (as measured for instance by BMI—body mass index) than their native counterparts do, but these rates converge over time. In light of the worldwide obesity epidemic and the flow of immigrants into host countries with higher obesity rates, it is important to understand the consequences of such assimilation. Policymakers could benefit from a discussion of the impact of immigrant obesity on labor market outcomes and the use of public services. In particular, policies could find ways to improve immigrants’ access to health care for both the prevention and treatment of obesity.
  • Immigrants in the classroom and effects on native children

    Having immigrant children in the classroom may sometimes, but not always, harm educational outcomes of native children

    Peter Jensen, October 2015
    Many countries are experiencing increasing inflows of immigrant students. This raises concerns that having a large share of students for whom the host country language is not their first language may have detrimental effects on the educational outcomes of native children. However, the evidence is mixed, with some studies finding negative effects, and others finding no effects. Whether higher concentrations of immigrant students have an effect on native students differs across countries according to factors such as organization of the school system and immigrants’ socio-economic background.
  • Migrant well-being after leaving transition economies

    Evidence is mixed on whether quality of life improves for migrants from post-socialist economies

    Milena Nikolova, October 2015
    Most comparative research suggests that immigrants from post-socialist countries earn less than natives, work in jobs for which they are overqualified, and may experience unhappiness compared with natives, other immigrants, and non-migrants. In contrast, one study presents causal evidence which shows that moving from transition economies to live in the West increases the incomes, life satisfaction, and freedom perceptions of those who move. Credibly assessing whether leaving transition economies improves movers’ quality of life remains a challenging empirical question.
  • Occupational choice of return migrants

    Migrant-sending countries can significantly benefit from the type of occupation chosen by return migrants

    Matloob Piracha, October 2015
    The occupational choice of return migrants is important to their home country. Return migrants are likely to have acquired human capital while abroad, either through formal training or by working in a more efficient labor market. The employment of these newly acquired skills in the home country can have important economic implications. Examining the choice of return migrants to engage in wage employment, self-
employment, entrepreneurial activity, or to remain out of the labor market makes it possible to ascertain whether the initial migration decision benefited the home country as well as the migrants and their families.
  • What drives the language proficiency of immigrants?

    Immigrants differ in their language proficiency along a range of characteristics

    Ingo E. Isphording, August 2015
    Language proficiency is a key driver of immigrant integration. It increases job opportunities and facilitates social and political participation. However, despite its vital importance, many immigrants never reach adequate proficiency in the host country language. Therefore, insights into the underlying processes and associated factors are crucial for designing measures to improve language acquisition. Empirical evidence shows that immigrants differ in their ability to learn languages, in their experience of everyday language usage, and their incentives to learn host country languages. This offers a range of opportunities for public policy intervention.
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