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Selective migration, wages, and occupational mobility in nineteenth century America

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  • Salisbury, Laura

Abstract

This paper explores the extent to which unskilled internal migrants in the United States were motivated by the possibility of upward occupational mobility. Drawing on the literature on contemporary migrant selection and sorting, I argue that workers with greater potential for occupational upgrading may have selected themselves out of counties with low skill premiums and sorted themselves into counties with high skill premiums. Using linked data from the U.S. Census and county-level wage data, I present results consistent with this argument, with a focus on shorter distance movers. Conditioning on migrant status, I find that unskilled migrants who moved to places with high skill premiums were most likely to upgrade. I offer some evidence that migrant sorting explains much of this result. My results imply that previous research focusing solely on wage gains provides an incomplete picture of the factors motivating east–west migration in nineteenth century America.

Suggested Citation

  • Salisbury, Laura, 2014. "Selective migration, wages, and occupational mobility in nineteenth century America," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 40-63.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:53:y:2014:i:c:p:40-63
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2014.02.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ran Abramitzky & Roy Mill & Santiago Pérez, 2020. "Linking individuals across historical sources: A fully automated approach," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(2), pages 94-111, April.
    2. Shari Eli & Laura Salisbury & Allison Shertzer, 2016. "Migration Responses to Conflict: Evidence from the Border of the American Civil War," NBER Working Papers 22591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Dribe, Martin & Eriksson, Björn & Scalone, Francesco, 2019. "Migration, marriage and social mobility: Women in Sweden 1880–1900," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 93-111.
    4. Inwood, Kris & Minns, Chris & Summerfield, Fraser, 2019. "Occupational income scores and immigrant assimilation. Evidence from the Canadian census," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 114-122.
    5. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson & James J. Feigenbaum & Santiago Pérez, 2019. "Automated Linking of Historical Data," NBER Working Papers 25825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Salisbury, Laura, 2017. "Women's Income and Marriage Markets in the United States: Evidence from the Civil War Pension," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 1-38, March.
    7. Zachary Ward, 2019. "Internal Migration, Education and Upward Rank Mobility:Evidence from American History," CEH Discussion Papers 04, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Internal migration; Occupational mobility; Skill premium;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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