The Character Skills of Immigrants

Moiz Bhai and Pavel Dramskihu
Date of Publication: 
May, 2018
Source Organization: 

This study uses novel data on a representative sample of the U.S. population to examine how first and second generation immigrants compare to natives on non-cognitive character skills as measured by a common taxonomy of personality. Moiz Bhai of University of Arkansas and Pavel Dramski of New American Economy analyzed data from the National Survey of Midlife Development, which interviewed a nationally representative sample of Americans in 1996, 2006 and 2014.The findings reveal that immigrants and second-generation immigrants tend to have higher levels of openness to experience and “agency” than natives. Additionally, second-generation immigrants have higher levels of “conscientiousness” than natives. The findings are especially salient since character skills have been shown to influence labor market outcomes. Next, the authors examine the role of character skills differences on earnings by immigrant generation. Their earnings estimates reveal that non-cognitive skills have approximately as much explanatory power as schooling, yet non-cognitive skills have a modest impact on the earnings differences of immigrants and second-generation immigrants vis-a-vis natives. A key conclusion of this study is that “the continued success of second-generation immigrants indicates that in order to conduct economic evaluations of immigration policy, it is important to understand the outcomes for subsequent generations.” (Crystal Ye for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute).

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Bhai, M., & Dramskihu, P. (2018). The Character Skills of Immigrants.