Skip to main content

Immigration, skills and the labor market: International evidence


Using the 1994–1998 International Adult Literacy Survey, this paper compares cognitive skills and employment of immigrants in Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States. Immigrants had lower cognitive test scores than natives in each country, with the largest gaps in the US, and small gaps in Canada and New Zealand. Male immigrants in the US were no less likely to work than natives, while in the other countries, male immigrants were less likely to be employed. Female immigrants were less likely in each country to be employed than natives, with an especially large gap for the US.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lawrence M. Kahn.

Additional information

The author thanks Francine D. Blau and two anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions and Katsuhide Yamashita for excellent research assistance. Responsible editor: Christoph M. Schmidt.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kahn, L. Immigration, skills and the labor market: International evidence. J Popul Econ 17, 501–534 (2004).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

JEL classification

  • J24
  • J61

Key words

  • Human capital
  • immigrant workers