Human Capital and the Economic Assimilation of Recent Immigrants in Hong Kong

  • Dongshu OuEmail author
  • Suet-ling Pong


Using data from the 1996, 2001, and 2006 years of the Hong Kong Population Census, this paper reported the nativity earnings gap among a synthetic cohort of immigrant and native male Chinese employees in Hong Kong. Consistent with previous research, we found earnings divergence for all workers. However, this earnings divergence masked a reverse trend for low-skilled workers. Over time, low-skilled immigrant workers gained earnings assimilation with low-skilled native workers, but high-skilled immigrant workers did not gain assimilation with high-skilled native workers. A decomposition analysis suggested that the relative skill prices cannot explain the overtime change in the relative mean-earnings gaps by nativity. Further separating pre- and postmigration education of immigrants did not improve the explanatory power of the relative skill prices. Our results for Hong Kong are consistent with the findings from recent research on the economic assimilation of low-skilled immigrants in other countries.


Immigrants Earnings differentials Returns to skills Hong Kong 


  1. Akresh, I. R. (2006). Occupational mobility among legal immigrants to the United States. International Migration Review, 40(4), 854–884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Basilio, L., & Bauer, T. (2010). Transferability of human capital and immigrant assimilation: An analysis for Germany. IZA Discussion Paper, 4716.Google Scholar
  3. Borjas, G. J. (1985). Assimilation, changes in cohort quality, and the earnings of immigrants. Journal of Labor Economics, 3(4), 463–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borjas, G. J. (1995). Assimilation and changes in cohort quality revisited: What happened to immigrant earnings in the 1980s? Journal of LaborEconomics, 13(2), 201–245.Google Scholar
  5. Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State. (2011). Background note: Hong Kong. Accessed on September 22, 2011 from
  6. Capps, R., Fix, M., Passel, J. S., Ost, J., & Perez-Lopez, D. (2003). A profile of the low-wage immigrant work force. Urban Institute: Washington D.C.Google Scholar
  7. Card, D. (2005). Is the new immigration really so bad? Economic Journal, 115(507), F300–F323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Casanova, M. (2010). The wage process of older workers. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Economics. Los Angeles: University of California.Google Scholar
  9. Chiswick, B. R. (1978). The effect of Americanization on the earnings of foreign-born men. Journal of Political Economy, 86(5), 893–921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Friedberg, R. (2000). You can’t take it with you? Immigrant assimilation and the portability of human capital. Journal of Labor Economics, 18(2), 221–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hall, M., & Farkas, G. (2008). Does human capital rais earnings for immigrants in the low-skill labor market? Demography, 45(3), 619–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department. (2006). 2006 Population by-census: Summary results. Hong Kong: Census and Statistics Department.Google Scholar
  13. Hong Kong Immigration Department. Retrieved on December 7, 2011 from
  14. Jaeger, D.A. (2007). Skill differences and the effect of immigrants on the wages of natives, College of William and Mary, mimeo.Google Scholar
  15. Lam, K. C., & Liu, P. W. (1998). Immigration and the economy of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press.Google Scholar
  16. Lam, K. C., & Liu, P. W. (2002a). Earnings divergence of immigrants. Journal of Labor Economics, 20(1), 86–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lam, K. C., & Liu, P. W. (2002b). Relative returns to skills and assimilation of immigrants. Pacific Economic Review, 7(2), 229–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liu, P. W., Zhang, J. S., & Chong, S. C. (2004). Occupational segregation and wage differentials between natives and immigrants: Evidence from Hong Kong. Journal of Development Economics, 73(1), 395–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Massey, D. S., Mooney, M., Torres, K. C., & Charles, C. Z. (2007). Black immigrants and black natives attending selective colleges and universities in the United States. American Journal of Education, 113(2), 243–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pong, S.-L., & Tsang, W. K. (2010). The educational progress of mainland Chinese immigrant students in Hong Kong. Research in Sociology of Education, 17, 201–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2006). Immigrant America: A portrait. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  22. Zeng, Z., & Xie, Y. (2004). Asian Americans’ earnings disadvantage reexamined: The role of place of education. American Journal of Sociology, 109(5), 1075–1108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong
  2. 2.The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Penn State UniversityShatinHong Kong

Personalised recommendations