Immigration and wages

Abigail Cooke.

Geographer Abigail Cooke weighed in with a new study showing that diverse immigrant populations can boost wages, with benefits going disproportionately to communities that embrace newcomers.

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Diverse immigrant populations do more than enrich a city’s cultural fabric. According to geographers from UB and Southampton University, they also boost wages.

“What we found was remarkable. In cities that are unwelcoming to immigrants, as diversity rises, people’s wages either don’t change, or they go up by only a small amount. In cities that are welcoming to immigrants, as diversity goes up, people’s wages go up, and by a lot,” says Abigail Cooke, assistant professor of geography in UB’s College of Arts and Sciences, who wrote the paper with Thomas Kemeny, a UB research assistant professor and lecturer at the University of Southampton in England.

“It’s been shown empirically that as you have more immigrants and greater diversity of immigrants in a city, people’s wages also increase, which is certainly not the narrative that is often told about immigrants in our society. But this is a pretty robust finding, especially in the U.S.,” adds Cooke. “The contribution of this new research is that it shows how the institutional character of different cities might facilitate this positive aspect of immigration, or not.”

The findings were published online ahead of print March 30 in the journal Economic Geography.


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