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Open Access Publications from the University of California

In Search of the Glass Ceiling: The Career Trajectories of Immigrant and Native-born Engineers


This paper reports on an effort designed to search for the glass ceiling, through a study of the career trajectories of native white and Asian immigrant engineers. Using data drawn from a survey of the M.S. graduates of the engineering school at "Southern California U," we find that some form of labor market segmentation, so common at lower levels of the economy, is also restricting the mobility of highly skilled foreign-born engineers. Our key finding shows that immigrants receive a significantly lower return to experience than do their native-born counterparts. Consequently, the immigrant's career takes a distinctively different shape after 17 years of experience, native-born engineers surpass their immigrant counterparts, enjoying continuous earnings growth.

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