December 2009

IZA DP No. 4639: Are Foreign Migrants More Assimilated Than Native Ones?

The paper compares the pattern of wage assimilation of foreigners with both native immigrants and local natives in Italy, a country with large internal and international migration. This comparison, not yet exploited, yields understanding of the role played by language and knowledge of social capital. We use the administrative dataset on dependent employment (WHIP), to estimate a fixed effect model of the weekly wages of males aged 18-45 with controls for selection in return migration and unobserved heterogeneity. The three groups of workers start their careers at the same wage level but, as experience increases, the wage profiles of foreigners and natives, both immigrants and locals, diverge. A positive selection in the returns prevails, so that the foreign workers with lower wages are the most likely to stay in Italy. Also an "ethnic" skill differential emerges and a negative status dependence for those entering at low wage level.