, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 219–237 | Cite as

The Value of an Employment-Based Green Card

  • Sankar MukhopadhyayEmail author
  • David Oxborrow


The need for and role of highly skilled immigrant workers in the U.S. economy is fiercely debated. Proponents and opponents agree that temporary foreign workers are paid a lower wage than are natives. This lower wage partly originates from the restricted mobility of workers while on a temporary visa. In this article, we estimate the wage gain to employment-based immigrants from acquiring permanent U.S. residency. We use data from the New Immigrant Survey (2003) and implement a difference-in-difference propensity score matching estimator. We find that for employer-sponsored immigrants, the acquisition of a green card leads to an annual wage gain of about $11,860.


Immigration Permanent residency High skill Mobility 



We would like to thank two anonymous referees and the editor for many helpful comments. The usual disclaimer applies.


  1. Abadie, A., & Imbens, G. (2008). On the failure of the bootstrap for matching estimators. Econometrica, 76, 1537–1557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Becker, S. O., & Ichino, A. (2002). Estimation of average treatment effects based on propensity scores. The Stata Journal, 2, 358–377.Google Scholar
  3. Borjas, G. J. (1987). Self-selection and the earnings of immigrants. American Economic Review, 77, 531–553.Google Scholar
  4. Chiswick, B. R. (1980). An analysis of the economic progress and impact of immigrants (Report prepared for the Employment and Training Administration). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor.Google Scholar
  5. Constant, A., & Massey, D. S. (2003). Self-selection, earnings, and out-migration: A longitudinal study of immigrants to Germany. Journal of Population Economics, 16, 631–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dehejia, R., & Wabha, S. (2002). Propensity score matching methods for non-experimental causal studies. Review of Economics and Statistics, 84, 151–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gass-Kandilov, A. (2007). The value of a green card: Immigrant wage increases following adjustment to U.S. permanent residence. Unpublished paper, Department of Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.Google Scholar
  8. Hafner, K., & Preysman, D. (2003, May 30). Special visa’s use for tech workers is challenged. New York Times. Retrieved from
  9. Hamm, S., & Herbst, M. (2009, October 12). America’s high-tech sweatshops. Businessweek. Retrieved from
  10. Heckman, J., Ichimura, H., Smith, J., & Todd, P. (1996). Sources of selection bias in evaluating social programs: An interpretation of conventional measures and evidence on the effectiveness of matching as a program evaluation method. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 93, 13416–13420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Heckman, J., Ichimura, H., Smith, J., & Todd, P. (1998a). Characterizing selection bias using experimental data. Econometrica, 66, 1017–1098.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Heckman, J., Ichimura, H., & Todd, P. (1997). Matching as an econometric estimator: Evidence from evaluating a job training programme. Review of Economic Studies, 64, 605–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Heckman, J., Ichimura, H., & Todd, P. (1998b). Matching as an econometric evaluation estimator. Review of Economic Studies, 65, 261–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hersch, J. (2008). Profiling the new immigrant worker: The effects of skin color and height. Journal of Labor Economics, 26, 345–386.Google Scholar
  15. Hira, R. (2007). Outsourcing America’s technology and knowledge jobs (EPI Briefing Paper No. 187). Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from
  16. Jasso, G., & Rosenzweig, M. R. (1988). How well do U.S. immigrants do? Vintage effects, emigration selectivity, and occupational mobility of immigrants. In T. P. Schultz (Ed.), Research of population economics (Vol. 6, pp. 229–253). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  17. Jasso, G., Massey, D., Rosenzweig, M. R., & Smith, J. (2000). The New Immigrant Survey Pilot: Overview and new findings about legal immigrants at admission. Demography, 37, 127–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kirkegaard, J. (2005). Outsourcing and skill imports: Foreign high-skilled workers on H-1B and L-1 Visas in the United States (IIE Working Paper No. 05–15). Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics. Retrieved from
  19. Leuven, E., & Sianesi, B. (2003). PSMATCH2: Stata module to perform full Mahalanobis and propensity score matching, common support graphing, and covariate imbalance testing (version 3.0.0). Boston, MA: Department of Economics, Boston University. Retrieved from
  20. Lowell, L. B. (2001). Skilled temporary and permanent immigrants in the United States. Population Research and Policy Review, 20, 33–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Massey, D. S. (1987). Understanding Mexican migration to the United States. American Journal of Sociology, 92, 1332–1403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Matloff, N. (2004). Needed reform for the H-1B and L-1 work visas (and relation to offshoring) (Proposal). Davis: University of California.Google Scholar
  23. Miano, J. (2007). Low salaries for low skills wages and skill levels for H-1B computer workers, 2005 (Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder 4–07). Washington, DC: Center for Immigration Studies. Retrieved from
  24. Miano, J. (2008). H-1B visa numbers: No relationship to economic need (Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder 7–08). Retrieved from
  25. National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). (2006). H-1B professionals and wages: Setting the record straight (NFAP Policy Brief). Arlington, VA: NFAP. Retrieved from
  26. National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). (2009). H-1B visas by the numbers (NFAP Policy Brief). Arlington, VA: NFAP. Retrieved from
  27. National Research Council. (2001). Building a workforce for the information economy. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  28. Reagan, P. B., & Olsen, R. J. (2000). You can go home again: Evidence from longitudinal data. Demography, 37, 339–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rosenbaum, P., & Rubin, D. (1983). The central role of the propensity score in the observational studies for causal effects. Biometrika, 70, 41–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Silverman, B. W. (1986). Density estimation for statistics and data analysis (Monographs on Statistics and Applied Probability). London, UK: Chapman and Hall.Google Scholar
  31. Smith, J., & Todd, P. (2005). Does matching overcome LaLonde’s critique of non-experimental estimators? Journal of Econometrics, 125, 305–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Summers, R., & Heston, A. (1991). The Penn World Table (Mark 5): An expanded set of international comparisons, 1950–1988. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 106, 327–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Todd, P. (2008). Matching estimators. In S. N. Durlauf & L. E. Blume (Eds.), The new Palgrave dictionary of economics. Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from
  34. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (2010). Yearbook of immigration statistics. Washington, DC: DHS. Retrieved from
  35. U.S. General Accounting Office. (2003). Better tracking needed to help determine H-1B program’s effects on the U.S. workforce (Report). Retrieved from
  36. Wayne, L. (2001, April 29). Workers, and bosses, in a visa maze. New York Times. Retrieved from
  37. Zavodny, M. (2003). The H-1B program and its effects on information technology workers. Economic Review, Q3, 33–43.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Nevada RenoRenoUSA

Personalised recommendations