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Who Comes and Why ? Determinants of Immigrants Skill Level in the Early XXth Century US

Author

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  • Matías COVARRUBIAS

    (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

  • Jeanne LAFORTUNE

    (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and EH-Clio Lab UC)

  • José TESSADA

    (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and EH-Clio Lab UC)

Abstract

This paper first elaborates a model of intermediate selection where potential migrants must have both the resources to finance the migration cost (liquidity constraint restriction) and an income gain of migrating (economic incentives restriction). We then test the predictions of the model regarding the impact of output in the sending country and migration costs on average skill level of immigrants to the United States from 1899 to 1932, where immigration was initially unrestricted by law and then highly limited. Our panel of 39 countries includes data on occupations that immigrants had in their country of origin, providing a more accurate skill measure than previously available datasets. We find that migration costs have a negative but skill-neutral effect on quantity of immigrants and an increase in output, measured as GDP per capita, has a positive effect on quantity and a negative effect on average skill level of immigrants, suggesting that the main channel by which changes in output affected the average skill level of migrants in that time period is through the easing or tightening of the liquidity constraints and not through the economic incentives as in previous models. Also, using migrants’ occupation in the United States as a measure of skills would lead to misleading conclusions.

Suggested Citation

  • Matías COVARRUBIAS & Jeanne LAFORTUNE & José TESSADA, 2015. "Who Comes and Why ? Determinants of Immigrants Skill Level in the Early XXth Century US," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 115-155, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvde:v:81:y:2015:i:1:p:115-155
    DOI: 10.1017/dem.2014.17
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander A. J. Wulfers, 2018. "Skill Selection and American Immigration Policy in the Interwar Period," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _161, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. Massey, Catherine G., 2016. "Immigration quotas and immigrant selection," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 21-40.
    3. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Boustan, 2017. "Immigration in American Economic History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(4), pages 1311-1345, December.
    4. Gray, Rowena & Narciso, Gaia & Tortorici, Gaspare, 2019. "Globalization, agricultural markets and mass migration: Italy, 1881–1912," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    5. Zachary Ward, 2015. "The U-Shaped Self-Selection of Return Migrants," CEH Discussion Papers 035, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    6. David De La Croix & Frédéric Docquier & Alice Fabre & Robert Stelter, 2019. "The Academic Market And The Rise Of Universities In Medieval And Early Modern Europe (1000-1800)," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2019019, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    7. Dao, Thu Hien & Docquier, Frédéric & Parsons, Chris & Peri, Giovanni, 2018. "Migration and development: Dissecting the anatomy of the mobility transition," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 88-101.
    8. Philipp Ager & Casper Worm Hansen, 2016. "National Immigration Quotas and Local Economic Growth," Discussion Papers 16-11, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    9. Timothy J Hatton & Zachary Ward, 2018. "International Migration in the Atlantic Economy 1850 - 1940," CEH Discussion Papers 02, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Immigration selection; High-skilled migration; Mass migration era;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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