THE ECONOMIC PROGRESS OF IMMIGRANTS: Data and Basic Trends 3

It is useful to begin by summarizing the broad trends in the rate of wage growth in the immigrant population over the 1970-90 period. The first three columns of Table 1 report the wage of immigrants—relative to that of comparably aged natives—for each of the year-of-migration/age-at-arrival cohorts (aggregated over all national origin groups). Consider the immigrants who arrived in the United States between 1965 and 1969, and were 25-34 years old at the time of the 1970 Census enumeration. These immigrants earned 13 percent less than natives who were 25-34 years old in 1970. By 1980, the wage gap between the two groups (who were ten years older) had narrowed to 6 percent, and by 1990 (when the two groups were 20 years older) to 3 percent. The last two columns of the table report the rate of wage convergence implied by these wage data (AviJk This particular cohort experienced a rate of wages convergence of 7 percentage points in the first 10 years after arrival, and of another 4 percentage points in the second 10 years.

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The remaining rows of the table reveal roughly the same rate of relative economic progress for many of the cohorts: about 10 percentage points over a 20-year period, with most of the wage convergence taking place in the first ten years after arrival. Consider, for example, the experience of the group of young men who migrated in the late 1970s. Their relative wage increased by 7 percentage points between 1980 and 1990—the same rate of relative wage growth experienced by the young men who entered between 1965 and 1969 during their first ten years in the country. The data in Table 1, therefore, do not provide strong evidence for the hypothesis that, on aggregate, there are cohort effects in the rate of wage convergence.