HKS Authors

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This paper empirically tests diverse theoretical explanations for observed skills disparities between adult immigrants and non-immigrants. Using skills data from 100,000 adults (16-65) in 18 Western countries, we show that in almost all countries, adult immigrants are less numerically skilled than non-immigrants, but that the size of the skills gap varies strongly cross-nationally. Multilevel models reveal that differences related to immigrant populations’ composition on demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, employment and countries of birth largely explain these regularities. In addition, countries’ religious diversity, immigrants social and educational integration are associated with smaller skills gaps, while labor market protectionism and educational systems’ vocational orientation are related to larger gaps. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.


Levels, Mark, Jaap Dronkers, and Christopher Jencks. "Mind the Gap: Compositional, Cultural and Institutional Explanations for Numeracy Skills Disparities Between Adult Immigrants and Natives in Western Countries." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP14-020, April 2014.