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Occupational Barriers and the Productivity Penalty from Lack of Legal Status

Francesc Ortega

No 2118, CReAM Discussion Paper Series from Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London

Abstract: Wage gaps between documented (including natives) and undocumented workers reflect employer exploitation, endogenous occupational sorting and productivity losses associated with lack of legal status. Identification of the productivity penalty is crucial to estimate the net economic gains from legalization. Our paper presents a model-based strategy to identify the productivity penalty associated with lack of legal status. In the model, heterogeneous workers choose occupations and undocumented workers are subject to employer discrimination and experience productivity loss in occupations characterized by tasks that require legal status. The theoretical analysis provides guidance on how to identify occupational barriers and on how to compute a lower bound for the undocumented productivity penalty. Applying this strategy to individual-level data that imputes undocumented status, we estimate that the productivity penalty associated with lack of legal status in the United States is at least 5%. This implies that legalization of undocumented workers not only improves their wages, but also increases GDP

Keywords: Immigration; Undocumented; Legalization; Discrimination (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J3 J7 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-lma
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