The Impact of Legal Status on Immigrants' Human Capital and Earnings: Evidence from the Pre-1982 Amnesty Program

Ying Pan, Louisiana State University

This paper analyzes the impact of IRCA 1986, a U.S. amnesty, on immigrants’ human capital development and labor market outcomes. Because of IRCA, the 1975-1981 arrivals were all legalized by 1990. However, many of the 1982-1986 arrivals remained illegal. Using the California Latino immigrants in Census 1990, I find that the 1975-81 arrivals on average outperform the 1982-86 arrivals in men’s wage, women’s labor force participation rate, and English-speaking ability. This finding is not a general trend of labor market conditions, because the analysis using refugees and U.S.-born Latinos, which are two comparison groups without legal status issue, indicate no difference in outcomes between pre-1982 and post-1982 cohorts.

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Presented in Session 8: Immigrant Labor Market Investment and Skills