Legal Status and Wage Disparities for Mexican Immigrants

Matthew Hall, Pennsylvania State University
George Farkas, University of California, Irvine

This paper employs a unique method of imputing the legal status of Mexican immigrants in the 1996-1999 and 2001-2003 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to provide new evidence of the role of legal authorization in the U.S. on workers’ wages. Using growth curve techniques, we estimate wage trajectories for four groups: documented Mexican immigrants, undocumented Mexican immigrants, U.S-born Mexican Americans, and native non-Latino whites. Our estimates reveal a 17 percent wage disparity between documented and undocumented Mexican immigrant men, and a 9 percent documented-undocumented wage disparity for Mexican immigrant women. We also find that in comparison to authorized Mexicans, undocumented Mexican immigrants have lower returns to human capital and slower wage growth. These findings suggest possible discriminatory practices in the wage determination of undocumented Mexican workers.

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Presented in Session 30: Immigration and the Labor Force