Immigrant Success and the Expansion of Education in American and Canadian Cities, 1970-1990

Date Presented:

May 1, 2001


This research examines how the expansion of education, and its changing role in labor markets, has shaped employment experiences of newly–arriving immigrants to American and Canadian cities over the period 1970 to 1990. Earlier expansion of education levels in the U.S., particularly in immigrant–intensive cities, lowered the relative employment success of its immigrants compared to those in Canada in the 1970s, while the more recent rapid expansion of education in Canada has reduced this cross–national difference and fostered convergence. Three potential aspects of these effects are examined: (i) higher native–born educational levels create or increase an immigrant skills gap, (ii) the impact on immigrants is magnified by the lower relevance (actual or perceived) of their credentials to employers? requirements, and (iii) associated shifts toward knowledge–based or professionalized occupations alters the credential validation processes in ways which disadvantage immigrants. These effects are conditional upon labor market institutions and processes. Data are drawn from U.S. and Canadian census microdata files for 1980/81 and 1990/91. The impact of educational change on immigrants is shown in inter–temporal decomposition analysis.


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