Immigration

The role of immigration in the labor force supply has always been important in the United States. Where~ only 5 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born in 19iO, by 1996 the number had risen to almost 10 percent. The flow of legal immigrants is controlled by In intricate ‘quota system which favors skilled workers and their families, as well as close relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. In addition, there are special quotas for political refugees. In recent years, the biggest groups of legal immigrants have come from places like Mexico, the Philippines. Vietnam, ‘and some of the Central American and Caribbean countries.

The major change in immigration in recent decades has been a change in the characteristics of immigrants. In the 1~50s, German}”and Canada were the major sources, while in the 1980s and 1990s Mexico and the Philippines were the dominant sources.

As a result, recent immigrants have been relatively much less skilled and educated than those of an earlierage. From the point of view of labor supply, the ‘overall effect of recent immigration has been an increase in the supply of low-skilled workers in the United
. States relative to high-skilled workers. Studies have estimated that this change in supply has contributed to’ the decline in the wages of less-educated groups ·relative to the college-educated.

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