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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - National Poverty Center Working Paper Series
Title Wage trends among disadvantaged minorities
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2006
Page numbers 59-86
The resurgence of large scale immigration in recent decades fundamentally altered the
racial and ethnic composition of the disadvantaged population in the United States. In 1960, 21.3
percent of the working men placing in the bottom 20 percent of the wage distribution were
African American and only 3.6 percent were foreign-born. By 2000, the black share in this lowwage
workforce had fallen to 13.1 percent, but the immigrant share had risen to 17.4 percent.
It is well known that the “new immigration” contains a very large number of low-skill
workers (Borjas 1999). In fact, the data reveals that, at least through the mid-1990s, each
successive wave of post-1960 immigrants entered the United States with less earnings potential
than the preceding wave. The sizable increase in the size of the immigrant influx—as well as the
changing demographic and skill characteristics of the immigrants—can be attributed not only to
an increase in illegal immigration (it is estimated that at least 10 million illegal immigrants
resided in the country by 2005), but also to changes in legal immigration policy that emphasize
family reunification, rather than the skills of potential migrants, in the awarding of entry visas.
Inevitably, the changes in immigration policy and the lax border enforcement changed the ethnic
and racial mix of the disadvantaged population. Moreover, these changes are likely to continue
since the pace of modern immigration has not yet abated.

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