Advertisement

Journal of Labor Research

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 119–142 | Cite as

The Impact of Legal Status on Immigrants’ Earnings and Human Capital: Evidence from the IRCA 1986

  • Ying Pan
Article

Abstract

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), the largest amnesty in U.S. history, took effect in 1986 and legalized all immigrants who arrived before 1982. The IRCA creates a discontinuity, according to the year of entry, in the probability of having legal status. Therefore, I use the regression discontinuity approach to study the impact of legality on immigrants’ labor market outcomes and human capital. Using Californian Latino immigrants from Census 1990, I find that the 1975–81 arrivals, on average, outperform the 1982–86 arrivals in male wages, female employment probability, and male English-speaking ability. These findings are not due to a general trend in U.S. labor market conditions because the same analysis, using refugees, Puerto Rican migrants and U.S.-born Latinos—three comparison groups without legality issues—indicates no difference in outcomes between the 1975–81 and 1982–86 cohorts. However, the advantage of Latino immigrants of the earlier cohort over the later cohort diminishes in Census 2000.

Keywords

Undocumented immigrants Amnesty IRCA 

References

  1. Amuedo-Dorantes C, Bansak C, Raphael S (2007) Gender differences in the labor market: impact of IRCA's amnesty provisions. Am Econ Rev 97(2):412–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barcellos SH (2010) Legalization and the economic status of immigrants, RAND Working Papers 754Google Scholar
  3. Bean FD, Lowell BL, Taylor LJ (1988) Undocumented Mexican immigrants and the earnings of other workers in the United States. Demography 25:35–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Briggs VM (2004) Guestworker programs, lessons from the past and warnings for the future. Center for Immigration Studies, Washington D.CGoogle Scholar
  5. Cortes K (2004) Are refugees different from economic immigrants? Some empirical evidence on the heterogeneity of immigrant groups in the United States. Rev Econ Stat 86(2):465–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dustmann Christian (2003) Return migration, wage differentials and the optimal migration duration. Eur Econ Rev 47:353–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fortuny K, Capps R, Passel JS (2007) The Characteristics of Unauthorized Immigrants in California, Los Angeles County, and the United States. The Urban Institute, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  8. Furtado D, Theodoropoulos N (2010) Why does intermarriage increase immigrant employment? The role of Networks, The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, Berkeley Electronic Press, 10:1Google Scholar
  9. Kossoudji SA, Cobb-Clark DA (2002) Coming out of the shadows: learning about legal status and wages from the legalized population. J Labor Econ 20(3):598–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kossoudji SA, Cobb-Clark DA (2000) IRCA’s impact on the occupational concentration and mobility of newly-legalized Mexican men. J Popul Econ 13(1):81–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hill LE, Lofstrom M, Hayes JM (2010) Immigrant legalization: assessing the labor market effects, Public Policy Institute of CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  12. Lindstrom D (1996) Economic opportunity in Mexico and return migration from the United States. Demography 33(3):357–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lozano FA, Sorensen T (2011) The Labor Market Value to Legal Status,” IZA Discussion Papers 5492, Institute for the Study of LaborGoogle Scholar
  14. Massey D (1987) Understanding Mexican migration to the United States. Am J Sociol 92:1372–1403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Oreopoulos P, von Wachter T, Heisz A (2006) The short- and long-term career effects of graduating in a recession: hysteresis and heterogeneity in the market for college graduates. Columbia University, MimeoGoogle Scholar
  16. Orrenius PM, Zavodny M (2003) Do amnesty programs encourage illegal immigration? Evidence from IRCA. Demography 40(3):437–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Passel JS (2005) Unauthorized migrants: numbers and characteristics. Pew Hispanic Center, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  18. Pan Y (2009) Gains from Green Cards, Immigrant Parents’ Legal Status and Children’s Scholastic Achievement, LSU working paperGoogle Scholar
  19. Pan Y (2010) The Impact of Legal Status on Immigrants’ Earnings and Human Capital: Evidence from the IRCA 1986, LSU working paperGoogle Scholar
  20. Rivera-Batiz FL (1999) Undocumented workers in the labor market: an analysis of the earnings of legal and illegal immigrants in the U.S. J Popul Econ 12(1):91–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.2118 Patrick F. Taylor Hall, Louisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

Personalised recommendations