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Equal Pay, No Way! Explaining the Labor Market Earnings Gap of Immigrants to the United States
AuthorGroh, Rita Boyajian
AdvisorOstergard, Robert L.
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Immigrants immigrate to the United States for a number of social, economic and/or political reasons. The last decade bore witness to economic motivations, namely labor market earnings potential, as the primary driving force and motivation for immigration. However, foreign born persons have historically earned less labor market earnings than their native born counterparts in the United States. This is not a new phenomenon by any means. The gap could simply be a result of an immigrant’s non-transferable skills to the United States labor markets. However, the diversity in the explanation of the literature implies a different story. Scholars argue that it takes 15 years for immigrants to close the gap. Other scholars argue that the gap will never be closed. While there is no clear understanding of why immigrants, both first and second generation, make less labor market earnings than their native born counterparts, even at every education attainment level. Past scholars have often cited only one variable, such as education attainment, or language proficiency, or time in country, as the singular cause of the gap. This dissertation introduces a matrix of variables: education attainment, language fluency, and time in country to suggest an alternative methodological approach. It also controls for demographic characteristics like age, marital status, race, citizenship, and first or second generation status. Previous literature lacks any holistic approach or considers micro-level factors to understanding the complexity of the gap. Using survey level data collected annually, this dissertation explores labor market earnings gap for first and second generation immigrants compared to their native born counterparts. Ultimately, this dissertation concludes that the labor market earnings gap will never close, regardless of education attained, language fluency, time in country or citizenship. This study sides with the existing scholarship that concludes that an immigrant’s labor market earnings gap exists when compared to that of the native born population.