Performance of migrants

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Skill-based immigration, economic integration, and economic performance

    Benefiting from highly skilled immigrants requires a complementary mix of immigrant selection and economic integration policies

    Studies for major immigrant-receiving countries provide evidence on the comparative economic performance of immigrant classes (skill-, kinship-, and humanitarian-based). Developed countries are increasingly competing for high-skilled immigrants, who perform better in the labor market. However, there are serious challenges to their economic integration, which highlights a need for complementary immigration and integration policies.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Integrating refugees into labor markets

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

    Pieter Bevelander, May 2016
    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.
  • Income of immigrants and their return

    Both low- and high-income immigrants stay for a relatively short time

    Govert E. Bijwaard, April 2015
    The majority of immigrants stay only temporarily in the host country. When many migrations are temporary, it is important to know who leaves and who stays, and why. The key questions for the host country are whether immigrants are net contributors to the welfare system and whether migrants assimilate quickly. The key questions for the home country are whether migrants return and who returns. The host country gains when unsuccessful migrants leave, while the home country may gain when successful migrants leave. Empirical evidence reveals that both low-income-earning and high-income-earning migrants leave the host country quite soon.
  • Ethnic minority self-employment

    Poor paid employment prospects push minority workers into working for themselves, often in low-reward work

    Ken Clark, January 2015
    In many countries, ethnic minority groups are over-represented in self-employment compared with the majority community. The kind of work done by minority entrepreneurs can therefore be an important driver of the economic well-being of their ethnic group. Furthermore, growing the self-employment sector is a policy objective for many governments, which see it as a source of innovation, economic growth, and employment. While self-employment might offer economic opportunities to minority groups, it is important to understand the factors that underlie the nature and extent of ethnic entrepreneurship to evaluate whether policy measures should support it.
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