Yosef H. Yerushalmi Professor of Israel and Jewish Studies
Professor of Sociology
Past Research: Much of Cohen’s research concerns immigration flows and labor market integration of immigrants in Israel, Israeli Jewish and Arab emigrants in the U.S., as well as of returning Israelis who spent time abroad. Taken together, his research on these topics underscores the importance of self-selection patterns—those characterizing the type of people who choose to come, leave, and return to Israel—for an understanding of Israel’s changing attractiveness and of the way immigrants integrate into new labor markets. Patterns of immigrants’ self selection are no less important in the US, where much of the immigration debate is on declining immigrants’ skills. Since selectivity patterns are constrained by visa availability and require data on skill levels of potential immigrants in source countries, this debate suffers from lack of convincing empirical evidence. To this end, Cohen’s research uses natural experiments analyzing the destination choices and skill level of potential immigrants who were offered free entry to several countries. Drawing on Israeli and US census data Cohen showed that in the period when the US offered refugee visas to Soviet emigrants, the "best and the brightest," among Soviet Jewry chose America over Israel as their new home. This pattern hardly changed after 1990, the year Germany replaced the US as the provider of refugee visas to Jews from the former Soviet Republics; during the 1990s the US attracted Jewish immigrants of higher educational levels than those choosing Israel or Germany as their destination (Cohen & Haberfeld, 2007; Cohen & Kogan, 2007). From the American perspective, the results of these natural experiments show that at least with respect to Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union, America has been the clear winner in the immigration market for skilled immigrants. At the same time, Cohen has continued to study the dynamics of inequality and social cohesion in Israel (funded during 2004-06 by the Israeli Science Foundation), focusing on the ethnic cleavage between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews of the third generation. Cohen has demonstrated that Mizrahi/Ashkenazi educational gaps in the third generation are as large as they were in the second, and thus, ethnic inequality on this dimension is unlikely to disappear in the near future (Cohen, Haberfeld, & Kristal, 2007). Cohen has also published several papers (supported by the Van Leer Institute) that demonstrate the importance of structural changes in the Israeli economy and labor movement on increasing income inequality within that country (Kristal & Cohen, 2007; Haberfeld & Cohen, 2007).
Present/Future Research: Currently, Cohen is involved in three research projects. The first (funded through 2008 by the German-Israeli Foundation) compares the integration of Soviet Jewish immigrants in Israel to their integration in Germany. The project supplements existing census data by new survey data which have been collected in Germany and Israel on Jewish immigrants as well as on ethnic Germans (Aussiedler) in Germany. These data provide an opportunity to address issues not tackled so far (e.g., the role of social networks in immigrants’ economic progress and the role of Russian economic enclaves in immigrants’ employment chances). The second project focuses on stratification issues. Specifically, Cohen and his colleagues have been analyzing the distribution of fringe benefits among Israeli workers and their impact on earning inequality. Finally, Cohen has been studying the dynamics of emigration from Israel to the US since the late 1970s, analyzing the emigration rates, selectivity, and labor market assimilation of successive cohorts of Israeli immigrants in the US.
Cohen, Yinon, and Yitchak Haberfeld. 2007. Self-Selection and Earning Assimilation: Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Israel and the US. Demography 44: 649-668.
Cohen, Yinon, and Irena Kogan. 2007. Next year in Jerusalem … or in Cologne? Labor Market Integration of Jewish Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Israel and Germany in the 1990s. European Sociological Review 23: 155-168.
Haberfeld, Yitchak, and Yinon Cohen. 2007. Gender, Ethnic, and National Earnings Gaps in Israel: the Role of Rising Inequality. Social Science Research 36: 654-672.
Cohen, Yinon, Yitchak Haberfeld, Tali Kristal, and Guy Mundlak. 2007. The State of Organized Labor in Israel. Journal of Labor Research 28: 255- 273.
Kristal, Tali, and Yinon Cohen. 2007. Decentralization of Collective Wage Agreements and Rising Wage Inequality In Israel. Industrial Relations 46: 613-635.
Cohen, Yinon, Yitchak Haberfeld, and Tali Kristal. 2007. Ethnicity and Mixed Ethnicity: Educational Gaps among Israeli-born Jews. Ethnic and Racial Studies 30: 896-91
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