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tional distribution. For each year, these are based on the same set of occupational earnings from the 1980 census, so changes in the average value over time occur only through shifts in the distribution of immigrants across occupations. Thus, a decrease in the fraction of new immigrants in the relatively highly paid managerial and professional specialty occupations will lead to a fall in average occupational earnings.
Among male immigrants, average occupational earnings fell 7.6 percent between 1977 and 1994. Using the same methodology, incomes of native-born men rose 1.5 percent. Therefore, the same general trend of declining relative quality of immigrant cohorts is found using legal immigrants only. Similarly, among immigrant women, occupational income declined 0.6 percent between 1977 and 1994, and that of native women rose 4.1 percent. These trends are broadly consistent with the earlier evidence on trends among recent immigrants in conventional household surveys. The occupational earnings of immigrant men declined 9.1 percent relative to those of natives, and immigrant women experienced about a 5 percent relative decrease.
This analysis can be taken a step further by examining how average occupational earnings vary depending on the visa class of admission to permanent residence (see Table 5.10). New immigrants admitted under employment-preference visas have substantially greater earnings than those in other categories. Male employment principals had the highest occupational earnings, followed by their wives, women admitted as employment principals, and the spouses of those women. At the other end of the spectrum, refugees or asylees and their spouses have the lowest occupational earnings, and the various family-preference immigrants fall between these extremes.
The other columns in the table list changes in average occupational earnings relative to their 1977 level, first for 1982 and then for 1994. For both men and women, the most substantial changes are declines in earnings among employment principals and their spouses. These decreases occurred between 1977 and 1982, with some recovery (particularly among women) by 1994. A closer look at the change in occupational distributions reveals that the change in occupational earnings was driven largely by a dramatic fall in the number of physicians being admitted. This decline was driven by changes in U.S. immigration policy that made it much more difficult for physicians to enter as employment principals. The other substantial decline in occupational earnings was among male refugees and asylees, suggesting that the composition of refugees was shifting toward those whose occupational prospects were not so good.
Occupational earnings also differ substantially across country of origin, a pattern illustrated in Table 5.11. Immigrants from Mexico have the lowest average incomes, and those from Vietnam and the Dominican Republic have only modestly higher averages. In contrast, immigrants from India have the highest average incomes. There were very large declines in the occupational earnings of immigrants from some areas over this period—namely Vietnam, India, and Af-