UC Davis economics in the news

Prof. Peri talking up immigration (even the unskilled kind).

As of 2004, two thirds of workers without a high school degree in California were immigrants as well as almost half of the workers with a doctoral degree. Moreover U.S.-born Californians moved out of the state during the nineties and sometimes job competition from immigrants has been regarded as a key factor for this outflow. Certainly, if the inflow of immigrants crowded out the labor market options of U.S. natives, particularly the low skilled ones, such effect should have been particularly strong in California. But is it possible that immigrants lifted California’s wages, rather than harming them? After all immigrants have different skills and tend to work in different occupations then natives and hence they could make natives more productive and increase the demand for complementary production tasks performed by natives!

On the other hand the impact of immigration, in the 1960-2004 period has been negative on wages of previous immigrants and positive on wages of U.S. natives, revealing a good degree of complementarity between U.S. and foreign-born workers that contributes to benefit (rather then to harm) native workers’ productivity. One plausible interpretation of these complementarieties is the following. Manual tasks in most sectors of California economy are executed by immigrants; the larger availability of these skills has increased the demand for interactive-communication-coordination tasks, needed in production, and this second set of skills are more likely provided by natives even with low education.


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