Determinants of Occupational Ranking after Legalization among Immigrants to the United States

Ilana Redstone, University of Pennsylvania

This paper uses New Immigrant Survey Pilot data to compare the skill level of immigrants' last home country job with that of their first U.S job since legalization. I find that 47% of legal immigrants experience occupational downgrading with their first job in the United States. Determinants vary by sending region. Class of admission, English ability, and location of education are strong correlates of occupational downgrading. Overall, immigrants who legalize through employment visas are less likely to experience downgrading. For most immigrants, English ability is associated with positive labor market outcomes. For immigrants from Asia, Europe, Australia, and Canada, education acquired abroad is associated with a decrease in the probability of downgrading. Results further suggest that education from Latin America and the Caribbean is of low value in the U.S. and that formal education is more important than English ability for Asian immigrants.

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Presented in Session 115: The Economic Adaptation of Immigrants