HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Robert W. Scrivner Research Professor of Economics and Social Policy


This article brings a new perspective to the analysis of the wage effects of the Mariel boatlift crisis, in which an estimated 125,000 Cuban refugees migrated to Florida between April and October, 1980. The author revisits the question of wage impacts from such a supply shock, drawing on the cumulative insights of research on the economic impact of immigration. That literature shows that the wage impact must be measured by carefully matching the skills of the immigrants with those of the incumbent workforce. Given that at least 60% of the Marielitos were high school dropouts, this article specifically examines the wage impact for this low-skill group. This analysis overturns the prior finding that the Mariel boatlift did not affect Miami’s wage structure. The wage of high school dropouts in Miami dropped dramatically, by 10 to 30%, suggesting an elasticity of wages with respect to the number of workers between -0.5 and -1.5.


Borjas, George. "The Wage Impact of the Marielitos: A Reappraisal." ILR Review 70.5 (October 2017): 1077-1110.