Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are immigrant nurses better than domestic ones in the US?

All industrialized economies suffer from a chronic shortage of nurses. Demand for health care is very high, yet nurses are relatively poorly compensated for grueling schedules, important responsibilities and thankless work. It is thus not surprising that the domestic supply of nurses is limited despite major efforts in broadening nursing school opportunities. One has to rely on immigration to fulfill the needs, with potentially the risk of attracting lower quality nurses, as they come from countries with lower human capital and different cultures or traditions.

Patricia Cortés and Jessica Pan study the quality of immigrant nurses and compare them to US native ones using wages and a measure for quality. The half of the nurses migrating to the United States in the last two decades come from the Philippines. They tend to take on harder tasks and tougher schedules (i.e., hospital work), yet they get higher wages than natives even after controlling for education, demographics, location and job characteristics. Non-filipino immigrant nurses fare, however, worse than natives. So is it that Filipinos are that much better? What is certain is that getting educated as a nurse is now done in the Philippines with the explicit goal of emigrating. As green cards for Filipinos are otherwise impossible to obtain (the waiting list is about 40 years long), getting employment sponsorship is essential. I suspect people who would be well qualified for other jobs choose nursing because of the inside track they get for emigration to the US, call that a network effect similar to when entire villages from Italy, Spain or Mexico migrating North for the same occupations, following a few pioneers.

No comments: