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Racism, Xenophobia or Markets? The Political Economy of Immigration Policy Prior to the Thirties

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  • Ashley S. Timmer
  • Jeffrey G. Williamson

Abstract

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the doors did not suddenly slam shut on American immigrants when Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act of May 1921. Rather, the United States started imposing restrictions a half century earlier. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, and Canada enacted similar measures, although the anti-immigration policy drift often took the form of an enormous drop in (or even the disappearance of) large immigrant subsidies. Contrary to conventional wisdom, there wasn't simply one big regime switch around World War I. What explains immigration policy between 1860-1930? This paper identifies the fundamentals that underlay the formation of immigration policy, distinguishes between the impact of these long run fundamentals and short run timing, and clarifies the difference between market and non-market forces. The key bottom line is this: Over the long haul, immigrant countries tried to maintain the relative economic position of unskilled labor, compared with skilled labor, landowner and industrialist. The morals for the present are obvious.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5867.

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Date of creation: Dec 1996
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Publication status: published as (Published as "Immigration Policy Prior to the Thirties: Labor Markets, Policy Interaction, and Globalization Backlash") Population and Development Review, Vol. 24, no. 4 (December 1998): 739-771.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5867

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References

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  1. Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1974. "Migration to the new world: Long term influences and impact," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 357-389.
  2. Alesina, Alberto F & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 565, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1992. "The Evolution of Global Labor Markets Since 1830 Background Evidence and Hypotheses," NBER Historical Working Papers, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc 0036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Wood, Adrian, 1995. "North-South Trade, Employment and Inequality: Changing Fortunes in a Skill-Driven World," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, number 9780198290155, October.
  5. Alan M. Taylor & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1994. "Convergence in the Age of Mass Migration," NBER Working Papers 4711, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Richard B. Freeman, 1995. "Are Your Wages Set in Beijing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 15-32, Summer.
  7. Timothy J. Hutton & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1995. "The Impact of Imigration on American Labor Markets Prior to the Quotas," NBER Working Papers 5185, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Marilyn Young & Michael Reksulak & William F. Shughart, 2001. "The Political Economy of the IRS," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(2), pages 201-220, 07.
  9. Wong, K-Y. & Cheng, L.K., 1988. "On The Strategic Choice Between Capital And Labor Mobility," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington, Department of Economics at the University of Washington 88-12, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  10. Benhabib, Jess, 1996. "On the political economy of immigration," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(9), pages 1737-1743, December.
  11. Mayer, Wolfgang, 1984. "Endogenous Tariff Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 970-85, December.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Kenneth F. Scheve & Matthew J. Slaughter, 1999. "Labor-Market Competition and Individual Preferences Over Immigration Policy," NBER Working Papers 6946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Facchini, Giovanni & Testa, Cecilia, 2008. "Who is Against a Common Market?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6847, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Anna Maria Mayda, 2006. "Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 510-530, August.
  4. Collins, W-J & O'Rourke, K-H & Williamson, J-G, 1997. "Were Trade and Factor Mobility Substitutes in History?," Papers 97/15, College Dublin, Department of Political Economy-.
  5. de Carvalho Filho, Irineu & Monasterio, Leonardo, 2012. "Immigration and the origins of regional inequality: Government-sponsored European migration to southern Brazil before World War I," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(5), pages 794-807.
  6. Giovanni Facchini & Anna Maria Mayda & Prachi Mishra, 2009. "Do Interest Groups affect US Immigration Policy?," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0904, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  7. Facchini, Giovanni, 2002. "Why Join a Common Market? The Political Economy of International Factor Mobility in a Multi-country Setting," Working Papers 02-0121, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business.
  8. Solimano, Andres, 2003. "Development Cycles, Political Regimes and International Migration: Argentina in the Twentieth Century," Working Paper Series, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER) UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  9. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1998. "Globalization, Labor Markets and Policy Backlash in the Past," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 51-72, Fall.
  10. Mayda, Anna Maria, 2005. "Who is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes Towards Immigration," CEPR Discussion Papers 5055, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Solimano, Andres, 2001. "International migration and the global economic order : an interview," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2720, The World Bank.
  12. Solimano AndreĢs, 2004. "Globalization, history and international migration : a view from Latin America," ILO Working Papers 373388, International Labour Organization.
  13. James F. Dolmas & Gregory W. Huffman, 2000. "The dynamics of immigration policy with wealth-heterogeneous immigrants," Working Papers 0006, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

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