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The Earnings Gap between Documented and Undocumented U.S. Farmworkers: 1990 to 2009

June 2013

Elizabeth Nisbet, Center for Women and Work, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and William M. Rodgers III, Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, The State University of New Jersey and the National Poverty Center, University of Michigan

Download '2013-07-npc-working-paper.pdf'.


This paper examines links between changes in the undocumented-documented wage gap and in immigration and social policy, migration levels, and the macroeconomy using 1990-2009 NAWS data. We find that the wage gap narrows from 8.0 percent in 1990-92 to 3.4 percent in 1992-94, followed by a widening until 2002-2004, when it reached 14.6 percent. From 2002-04 to 2007-09, the wage gap stabilized and remained in the 13.1 to 15.2 percent range, and then declined. Almost 90% of the gap was explained after 1990-92 and little before it. Documented workers have greater job tenure, better English speaking ability, more schooling, and tend to be older than undocumented workers.

Juhn, Murphy and Pierce wage decompositions suggest that policies which shifted employer demand away from undocumented workers, or altered costs, risks, and potentially the balance of power among employers and workers, as measured by changes in economic returns to measured characterstics are the primary factors that led to the wage gapís post-1994 expansion.

Employment, Unemployment, and the Labor Market, Immigration