George Borjas, Jeffrey Grogger, and Gordon Hanson have a new paper, and it's not good news for the Ottaviano and Peri result that immigration can cause native wages to increase due to strong complementarities between native and immigrant labor:
Immigrant-Native Complementarity Revisited, by George Borjas: I’ve often been asked what I think about the Ottaviano-Peri finding that there are strong complementarities between comparably skilled immigrants and natives—complementarities that lead them to conclude that immigration raises wages for many natives.
I’ve always been a little skeptical of the Ottaviano-Peri evidence. ... Here’s the abstract to our new paper:
In a recent paper, Ottaviano and Peri (2007a) report evidence that immigrant and native workers are not perfect substitutes within narrowly defined skill groups. The resulting complementarities have important policy implications because immigration may then raise the wage of many native-born workers. We examine the Ottaviano-Peri empirical exercise and show that their finding of imperfect substitution is fragile and depends on the way the sample of working persons is constructed. ... As an example, the finding of immigrant-native complementarity evaporates simply by removing high school students from the data... More generally, we cannot reject the hypothesis that comparably skilled immigrant and native workers are perfect substitutes once the empirical exercise uses standard methods to carefully construct the variables representing factor prices and factor supplies.
English translation: The Ottaviano and Peri data includes currently enrolled high school juniors and seniors. They classify these high school juniors and seniors as part of the "high school dropout" workforce. Their finding of immigrant-native complementarity disappears if the analysis excludes these high school juniors and seniors.
Things that seem too good to be true usually aren’t.
(...We've created a STATA program archive that allows easy replication of all of the results in our paper. It is available here).