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Immigration and the Wage Distribution in the United States

  • Ken-Hou LinEmail author
  • Inbar Weiss


This article assesses the connection between immigration and wage inequality in the United States. Departing from the focus on how the average wages of different native groups respond to immigration, we examine how immigrants shape the overall wage distribution. Despite evidence indicating that an increased presence of low-skilled immigrants is associated with losses at the lower end of wage distribution, we do not observe a similar result between high-skilled immigrants and natives at the upper end. Instead, the presence of foreign-born workers, whether high- or low-skilled, is associated with substantial gains for high-wage natives, particularly those at the very top. Consequently, increased immigration is associated with greater wage dispersion.


Immigration Labor market Wage inequality Skill 



We thank Yinon Cohen, Thomas DiPrete, Olivier Godechot, Gianluca Manzo, Etienne Ollion, David Pedulla, Kelly Raley, Eiko Strader, Stephen Trejo, the attendants of the PRC Brown Bag Series at the University of Texas-Austin, the attendants of Center for the Study of Wealth and Inequality seminar at the Columbia University, and the attendants of Paris Seminar on the Analysis of Social Processes and Structures for their comments on the earlier versions of this article. We also thank the editorial team at the Pennsylvania State University and the anonymous reviewers for their generous comments and suggestions. This research was supported by Grant P2CHD042849, awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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