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American Journal Of Sociology 2013

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Text Preview The Effects of U.S. Immigration on the Career
Trajectories of Native Workers, 1979–20041
Jeremy Pais
University of Connecticut

While earlier work primarily examines the point-in-time effects of immigration on the earnings of native workers, this article focuses more broadly on the effects of immigration on native workers’ career trajectories. Cross-classified multilevel growth-curve models are applied to 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and U.S. Census Bureau data to demonstrate how people adjust to changing local labor market conditions throughout their careers. The key findings indicate that substitution and complementary effects depend on the stage of the worker’s career. At entry into the labor market, high levels of immigration have a positive effect on the career paths of young nativeborn adults. However, negative contemporaneous effects to natives’ earnings tend to offset positive point-of-entry effects, a finding that suggests job competition among natives is greater in areas of high immigrant population concentration. These results raise questions about whether foreign-born workers need to be in direct competition with natives for there to be substitution effects.


The effect of immigration on the socioeconomic attainments of native workers is a contentious issue that is often studied within the substitution/com1 Thanks to all the AJS reviewers for their comments and suggestions. I also thank Scott South, Nancy Denton, and Larry Raffalovich for their helpful comments on previous versions of this manuscript. This research was supported by a National Science Foundation grant ðSES-0926235Þ. Any errors are my responsibility. Direct correspondence to Jeremy Pais, Department of Sociology, University of Connecticut, 344 Mansfield Road, Unit 2068, Storrs, Connecticut 06269. Email: [email protected]

© 2013 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

AJS Volume 119 Number 1 (July 2013): 35–74


American Journal of Sociology
plement framework ðe.g., Grossman 1982; Borjas 1983, 1987, 1999; Abowd and Freeman 1991; Card 1990, 2001, 2005; Butcher and Card 1991; Waldinger 1996, 1997; Smith and Edmonston 1997; Waldinger and Lichter 2003; Pedace 2006Þ. The substitution/complement framework maintains that increasing numbers of foreign-born workers can have negative or positive effects on the economic opportunities for natives. If increasing numbers of immigrants directly compete for the same jobs as native workers, but immigrants are recognized by the employers as more efficient, suitable, and productive substitutes for natives, then the labor market outcomes for native workers are expected to be negative. On the other hand, if immigrants are creating additional jobs in the economy ðe.g., Light and Rosenstein 1995; Linton 2002; Ottaviano and Peri 2006Þ or taking jobs that are deemed undesirable by native workers ðPiore 1979Þ, then the labor market outcomes for native workers can be minimal or even positive. Under this condition, the immigrant workforce is said to complement the existing native workforce. Despite the seemingly straightforward empirical nature of the question posed by the substitution/complement framework, reaching a consensus among researchers has been difficult. Recent immigration effects research tends to report a modest negative effect of immigrant population concentration on earnings for less educated native workers ðe.g., Reed and Danziger 2007Þ, but there exists evidence of complementary effects as well ðe.g., Muller 1993, p. 173; Enchautegui 1995; Reimers 1998, p. 142Þ. Many researchers recognize that the measurable economic impact of immigration is seemingly much smaller than what is anticipated by the dictates of supply and demand ðWaldinger and Lichter 2003; Card 2005; Reed and Danziger 2007Þ. Most recognize that the anticipated substitution effect of lower wages among native workers tends to be small and difficult to confirm... Show More

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