Chad Sparber - Colgate University - Faculty Directory

Colgate Directory

chad sparber university portrait 2014

Chad Sparber

Associate Professor of Economics; Chair of the Department
Economics, 233 Persson Hall
p 315-228-7967
My research agenda has focused upon the skills and composition of the American workforce, with an emphasis on the causes and consequences of immigration. Though my initial work adopted a macroeconomic perspective, I have increasingly borrowed insights and tools from labor economics, urban economics, international trade, and public economics.


PhD (2006), MA (2002), University of California-Davis
BA (2000), Western Washington University

Teaching Experience

  • Seminar on the Economics of Race and Ethnicity
  • International Economics
  • Urban Economics
  • Intermediate Macroeconomics
  • Introduction to Economics
  • Introduction to Statistics
  • London Economics Study Group (Spring 2009, Spring 2013)


Immigration, Labor, International, Urban


My work explores the causes and consequences of U.S. immigration, usually distinguishing between workers of differing levels of educational attainment. Among workers with little educational attainment, my co-authors and I have found that although short-run GDP fluctuations pull immigrants into particular states, trend GDP is more important for pushing migrants out of their home countries. Importantly, we do not find evidence that such immigration reduces wages or pushes natives to move to new states in search of better labor market opportunities. Instead, our research notes that less-educated native and foreign-born workers are employed in strikingly different occupations. Natives specialize in communication-intense work, while immigrants specialize in manual labor. This helps natives to effectively protect themselves from competition with immigrants. Immigration induces natives to increasingly specialize in higher-paying communication occupations so that wage losses from immigration are small.

In studying the market for highly educated labor, my co-authors and I have primarily concentrated on the consequences of the H-1B program, which grants temporary work permits for skilled workers. We find that by restricting temporary skilled immigration, the United States has also reduced the quality of international students considering a U.S. education. This effect is largely driven by a decline in the number of students from the top quintile of the ability distribution. In more recent work, we argue that the H-1B program has increased the productivity of the U.S. workforce and wages paid to college-educated natives without decreasing wages paid to non–college-educated workers.

Racial Diversity
Though I do not have any current projects examining the effects of racial diversity, my early work explored whether racial diversity has positive or negative effects on economic outcomes in the United States. Cross-country growth studies commonly argue that diversity impedes economic development. My work argues that the U.S. experience differs from that of other countries. City-level analysis indicates that racial diversity generates economic gains in the form of higher wages. Evidence at the state level is ambiguous, however, as results depend upon the specific econometric technique used. The effects of diversity also vary across sectors of the economy. Industries employing a large number of workers responsible for creative decision making and customer service experience gain from diversity, while industries characterized by high levels of group effort suffer losses. In this sense, my research has helped reconcile two competing literatures by suggesting that diversity improves decision making and problem solving, but also encumbers common action and public goods provision.

Working Papers

Links to most of my publications and working papers can also be found here or by request.

  • “Foreign STEM Workers and Native Wages and Employment in U.S. Cities" (with Giovanni Peri and Kevin Shih), NBER Working Paper 20093, May 2014.
  • “Unemployment, Skills, and the Business Cycle Since 2000” (with Jasmine Sijie Fan).


Links to most of my publications and working papers can also be found here or by request.
  • "In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrants and its Impact on College Enrollment, Tuition Costs, Student Financial Aid, and Indebtedness” (with Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes), Regional Studies and Urban Economics, Forthcoming (Working Paper 2012)
  • "STEM Workers, H-1B Visas, and Productivity in US Cities” (with Giovanni Peri and Kevin Shih), Journal of Labor Economics, Forthcoming (Working Paper 2013)
  • "Foreign Scientists and Engineers and Economic Growth" (with Giovanni Peri and Kevin Shih), Cato Papers on Public Policy, Vol. 3: 107-184, 2014 (Published Paper)
  • “Migration Theory” (with Örn B. Bodvarsson and Nicole Simpson) in Handbook on the Economics of International Migration, Barry Chiswick and Paul Miller, eds., Amsterdam: North Holland (Elsevier), 2015. Pages 3-51. ISBN-13: 978-0-444-53764-5
  • "Short- and Long-Run Determinants of Less-Educated Immigration Flows into U.S. States" (with Nicole Simpson), Southern Economic Journal, Vol. 80 (2): 414-438, October 2013 (Published Paper; Working Paper)
  • "Quotas and Quality: The Effect of H-1B Visa Restrictions on the Pool of Prospective Undergraduate Students from Abroad" (with Takao Kato), Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 95 (1): 109-126, March 2013 (Published Paper; Working Paper)
  • "Highly-Educated Immigrants and Native Occupational Choice" (with Giovanni Peri), Industrial Relations, Vol. 50 (3): 385-411, July 2011 (Published Paper; Working Paper 2010; Working Paper 2008)
  • "Assessing Inherent Model Bias: An Application to Native Displacement in Response to Immigration" (with Giovanni Peri), Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 69 (1): 82-91, January 2011 (Published Paper; Working Paper)
  • "Racial Diversity and Macroeconomic Productivity across U.S. States and Cities," Regional Studies, Vol. 44 (1): 71-85, February 2010 (Published Paper; Working Paper)
  • "Task Specialization, Immigration, and Wages" (with Giovanni Peri), American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Vol. 1 (3): 135-169, July 2009 (Published Paper; Working Paper) [Earlier Version Title: "Task Specialization, Comparative Advantages, and the Effects of Immigration on Wages" (Working Paper)]
  • "Racial Diversity and Aggregate Productivity in US Industries: 1980-2000," Southern Economic Journal, Vol. 75 (3): 829-856, January 2009 (Published PaperWorking Paper) [Earlier Version Title: "Racial Diversity and Economic Productivity - Industry Level Evidence"]
  • "A Theory of Racial Diversity, Segregation, and Productivity," Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 87 (2): 210-226, October 2008 (Published Paper; Working Paper)

Policy Articles


  • Major Grant, Colgate University, 2013-2014
  • External Research Fellow, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), University College London, May 2009 - Present
  • Ray J. Beaumont Memorial Award, May 2006
  • University of California Office of the President Dissertation Year Fellowship Award, 2005-06
  • Foundation for Teaching Economics Fellowship, July 2004
  • Determinants of Economic Success Fellowship, June 2004
  • IGERT National Science Foundation Research Fellowship, 2001-02

News, Blog, and Policy Citations

  • Newsweek (2015): An opinion page entry by Tim Kane arguing that "one can oppose the Obama administration’s executive actions... and still favor more legal immigration."
  • NY Times Opinion Pages (2015): Immigrants and efficient labor allocation.
  • Council of Economic Advisers (2014): A document outlining the economic rationale for President Obama's executive action on immigration.
  • PBS Newshour, Making Sen$e (2014): A brief summary of the summary in the NBER Digest
  • NBER Digest (2014): Technical summary of our STEM immigration work.
  • Wall Street Journal and WSJ Real Time Economics Blog (2014): STEM immigrants and native wage and employment growth.
  • The Daily Caller and Vox (2014): Foreign STEM workers and US productivity growth.
  • Washington Post Innovations (2013): I take no position on the article's title, "We Don't Need More Humanities Majors," but I appreciate the citation about the importance of foreign STEM workers.
  • New York Times Blog (2013): Comprehensive immigration reform and the effects of less-educated immigrants.
  • Washington Post Wonkblog and The Daily Caller (2013): Skill specialization of less-educated workers and controversial comments by a Marco Rubio aide.
  • The Times of India (Article 1, Article 2) and ZD Net (2013): H-1B benefits from an Indian media perspective.
  • Forbes (2013): Arguments supporting expansion of the  H-1B program (a favorable citation).
  • The Atlantic (2013): Arguments against expansion of the H-1B program (a less-than-favorable citation).
  • Wall Street Journal (2013): An op-ed piece about highly educated immigrants' contributions to U.S. productivity.
  • New York Times (2012): An article arguing that immigration has not responsible for declines in the U.S. standard of living.
  • New York Times Blog (2012): A lengthier discussion of immigration and jobs.
  • Cato Institute (2012): A policy piece using my co-authored research as evidence that the U.S. should not restrict immigration.
  • Colgate (2011): Video on the effects of H-1B policy on university education.
  • Federal Reserve (2010): A brief summary of immigration’s effect on the U.S. labor market.
  • Daily Kos (2008): A blog that calls my co-authored work “typical neoclassical pig manure… by bloviating nimrod economist(s).”
  • Milken Institute (2007): More evidence on the gains from immigration.
  • Newsweek (2007): Fareed Zakaria’s take on our research.
  • Puget Sound Business Journal (2001): A piece of urban economics from my first job after college.
  • Kitsap Sun (1999): My undergraduate contribution to urban economics.