ESRI Discussion Paper Series No.293
Negative Assimilation: How Immigrants Experience Economic Mobility in Japan

Ayumi Takenaka
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Bryn Mawr College
Kenji Ishida
Ph.D. student, Graduate School of Education, Tohoku University
Makiko Nakamuro
Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University


This paper examines the economic mobility of foreign migrants in Japan. In a country that is largely regarded as homogeneous and closed to outsiders, how and to what extent do immigrants achieve economic success? A survey conducted by the authors revealed that the conventional assimilationist perspective does not fully explain immigrants' economic success in Japan. Migrants from the West experience what Chiswick and Miller (2011) refer to as "negative assimilation." That is, their earnings decline over time in Japan. While negative assimilation was not clearly observed among immigrants from neighboring Asian countries, wages among this population did not increase with the length of their stay in Japan. For both groups, the skills they brought from abroad were found to be largely accountable for their economic success, while locally specific human capital, such as education acquired in the host society, did not contribute to their earnings.

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  2. Abstract
  3. page1
    1. Introduction
  4. page5
    2. How Immigrants "Make it" in the Host Society—the Role of Education
    1. page5
      Positive Assimilation
    2. page6
      The Role of Host vs. Foreign Education
    3. page8
      Negative Assimilation
  5. page9
    3. Data and Methods
    1. page11
    2. page12
    3. page14
  6. page16
    4. Results
    1. page17
      Baseline Model (Model 1-a and Model 1-b)
    2. page18
      Extended Model with Country Specific Human Capital (Model 1-c and Model 1-d)
    3. page19
      Estimating Earning Changes Over Time (Model 1-e and Model 1-f)
    4. page20
      Mechanisms of Negative and Non-Positive Assimilation
    5. page22
      Separate Models by Region and Country (Models 2)
  7. page24
    5. Discussion and Conclusions
  8. page28
    References Cited:
  9. page36
    Table 1: Descriptive Statistics of Variables Used in the Models
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    Table 2: Model 1 - Regression Analyses of Immigrant Earnings
  11. page38
    Table 3: Model 2 - Regression Analyses of Immigrant Earnings by Region of Origin
  12. page39
    Table 4: Correlation between Japanese degree holders and their family and demographiccharacteristics
  13. page40
    Figure 1: Occupational status by location in which the highest degree was earned
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