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The Political Economy of Immigration Restriction in the United States, 1890 to 1921

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  • Claudia Goldin

Abstract

Anti-immigrant forces almost succeeded in passing restrictive legislation in 1897, but their plan did not ultimately materialize for another twenty years. During that time 17 million Europeans from among the poorest nations came to the United States. This paper explores the economic and political forces that propped the door open for those twenty years, as well as the factors that eventually shut it Economic downturns and their consequent unemployment almost always brought demands for restriction. The flood of immigrants eventually did result in large negative effects on the wages of native-born workers. But the political clout of immigrants was strengthened by the reinforcing nature of their flows. Cities having large numbers of the foreign born received a disproportionate share of immigrants during the 1900 to 1910 period. After 1910, however, immigrant flows were diluting. This factor and the negative impact of immigrants on native wages were important in the passage of restrictionist legislation, although the rural heartland of America was pro-restriction from the l890s.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4345.

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Date of creation: Apr 1993
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Publication status: published as The Regulated Economy: An Historical Analysis of Political Economy, (University of Chicago Press) C. Goldin and G. Libecap, eds., 1994
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4345

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  1. Easterlin, Richard A., 1981. "Why Isn't the Whole World Developed?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(01), pages 1-17, March.
  2. Borjas, G.J. & Freeman, R.B. & Katz, L.F., 1991. "On The Labor Market Effects Of Immigration And Trade," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research 1556, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Joseph Altonji & David Card, 1989. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcome of Less-Skilled Natives," Working Papers, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. 636, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Williamson, J.G. & Hatton, J.T., 1992. "International Migration and World Development: A Historical Perspective," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research 1606, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  5. John M. Abowd & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Immigration, Trade and the Labor Market," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abow91-1.
  6. Joseph G. Altonji & David Card, 1989. "The Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market Outcomes of Natives," NBER Working Papers 3123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Hannon, Joan Underhill, 1982. "Ethnic discrimination in a 19th-century mining district: Michigan copper mines, 1888," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 28-50, January.
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