Immigrant Wage Gaps in Cross-National Perspective: Immigrant-Specific Disadvantages or Wage Structure?

Christel Kesler, University of California, Berkeley

In this paper, I ask how immigrant/native-born wage gaps differ in two institutionally distinct receiving societies in Western Europe: Sweden, with a comparatively equal wage structure, and the United Kingdom, with a comparatively unequal wage structure. Examining 30 immigrant groups that reside in both countries, I document two varieties of inequality. In terms of wage percentiles, immigrants fare better in the UK, net of human capital, demographic characteristics, and sending country. But immigrant/native-born gaps in terms of logged wages are at least as large in the UK as in Sweden, and for some groups larger, because overall earnings inequality is so high in the UK. These findings complement previous findings on gender wage gaps in cross-national perspective, and suggest that policies to improve immigrant pay must consider immigrant-specific barriers in the labor market and detrimental effects of earnings inequality for immigrants.

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Presented in Session 77: International Perspectives on Labor Market Inequality