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Intersectionality and the immigrant experience: When multiple group memberships matter

TitleIntersectionality and the immigrant experience: When multiple group memberships matter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsFitzsimmons, S., Baggs J., and Brannen M. Yoko
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings

First- and second-generation immigrants comprise most new workforce growth in developed countries. Relative to non-immigrants, individuals with an immigrant background are expected to receive superior salaries and promotions as a result of their cross-cultural skills, while they are simultaneously expected to receive inferior outcomes as a result of labor market barriers. Using an intersectionality lens, we test the relative strength of both upward and downward pressures on salary and promotions for groups of immigrants and their descendants who also vary in gender, mother tongue, and visible minority status. Using a nationally representative sample of 20,000 employees across 6000 firms, we find that the predicted skills premium only results in superior workplace outcomes for groups of white men. For all others, the salary losses due to barriers are substantially larger than the gains due to additional skills. When expressed as an annual salary, individuals in the most advantaged group receive a wage premium of $2161/year - a full $10,000 dollars more than an otherwise equivalent individual who faces the most substantial barriers and receives a wage deficit of $8310/year. These findings are partially mitigated by the degree to which firms are internationally-oriented, most strongly for the effects of immigrant generation. Our findings quantify the relative magnitude of intersectional benefits and barriers among immigrant employees and their descendants.