Task Specialization, Immigration, and Wages
Giovanni Peri and Chad Sparber, 2009.
Large inflows of less educated immigrants may reduce wages paid to comparably-educated, native-born workers. However, if less educated foreign- and native-born workers specialize in different production tasks, because of different abilities, immigration will cause natives to reallocate their task supply, thereby reducing downward wage pressure. Using occupational task-intensity data from the O*NET dataset and individual US census data, we demonstrate that foreign-born workers specialize in occupations intensive in manual-physical labor skills while natives pursue jobs more intensive in communication-language tasks. This mechanism can explain why economic analyses find only modest wage consequences of immigration for less educated native-born workers.