September 2002

IZA DP No. 568: Revisiting the Family Investment Model with Longitudinal Data: The Earnings Growth of Immigrant and U.S.-Born Women

Harriet Duleep, Daniel J. Dowhan

Historical, longitudinal data are used to track the earnings of cohorts of immigrant and U.S.- born women over time. The longitudinal data circumvent potential cohort biases that afflict cross-sectional analyses of immigrant earnings growth and biases due to immigrant emigration and other issues that affect synthetic cohort analyses. Their historical nature permits the analysis of numerous cohorts. The central result to emerge from the multi-cohort study inspires revisiting the Family Investment Model. Less attention has been paid to the earnings of immigrant women than immigrant men despite the prominent role women’s earnings play in family income differences across ethnic groups (Reimers, 1984). There are also compelling reasons why the earnings profiles of immigrant women may differ from those of immigrant men. Thus to understand immigrant economic assimilation we must also understand immigrant women’s earnings. Using longitudinal data on individuals to describe the earnings profiles of multiple foreign- and U.S.-born cohorts, we discover a profound historical shift in the earnings patterns of foreignborn women. This central result, bolstered by several sensitivity tests, prompts revisiting a key model in the nascent literature on immigrant women’s labor force behavior.