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Immigration quotas, World War I, and emigrant flows from the United States in the early 20th century

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  • Greenwood, Michael J.
  • Ward, Zachary

Abstract

Little is known about international return migration because governments rarely track out-migrants. However, one exception occurred early in the 20th century when the United States kept records of emigrants. Using within-country changes in quota allocations in 1921, 1924, and 1929 in combination with 1908–1932 data on specific countries of intended destination of the emigrants, we estimate the effect of quotas on (1) out-migration rates, (2) emigration across skill groups, and (3) the duration of temporary migrants' stays in the U.S. Higher quota restrictions reduced emigration rates, mostly for unskilled laborers and farmers. Higher quota restrictions also increased duration of stay, as the share of migrants staying less than 5years fell and the share staying 5 to 10years rose. Return migration behavior was also associated with changes in previous immigrant cohort's networks and savings. Return migration rates were also low during World War I, and more significant population losses from the War in home countries discouraged return migration. Finally, out-migration of German migrants increased substantially during the 1920s.

Suggested Citation

  • Greenwood, Michael J. & Ward, Zachary, 2015. "Immigration quotas, World War I, and emigrant flows from the United States in the early 20th century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 76-96.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:55:y:2015:i:c:p:76-96
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2014.05.001
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    3. Ward, Zachary, 2017. "Birds of passage: Return migration, self-selection and immigration quotas," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 37-52.
    4. Massey, Catherine G., 2016. "Immigration quotas and immigrant selection," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 21-40.
    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. Kirk Doran & Chungeun Yoon, 2019. "Immigration and Invention: Does Language Matter?," NBER Chapters, in: The Roles of Immigrants and Foreign Students in US Science, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, pages 123-145, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Byron Lew & Bruce Cater, 2018. "Farm mechanization on an otherwise ‘featureless’ plain: tractors on the Northern Great Plains and immigration policy of the 1920s," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 12(2), pages 181-218, May.
    8. Zachary Ward, 2016. "The Role of English Fluency in Migrant Assimilation: Evidence from United States History," CEH Discussion Papers 049, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    9. Ran Abramitzky & Philipp Ager & Leah Platt Boustan & Elior Cohen & Casper W. Hansen, 2019. "The Effects of Immigration on the Economy: Lessons from the 1920s Border Closure," NBER Working Papers 26536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Philipp Ager & Casper Worm Hansen, 2016. "National Immigration Quotas and Local Economic Growth," Discussion Papers 16-11, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    11. Philipp Ager & James J. Feigenbaum & Casper Worm Hansen & Hui Ren Tan, 2020. "How the Other Half Died: Immigration and Mortality in US Cities," NBER Working Papers 27480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. David Escamilla-Guerrero & Moramay Lopez-Alonso, 2020. "Migrant self-selection in the presence of random shocks. Evidence from the Panic of 1907," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _179, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    13. Xu, Dafeng, 2019. "Surname-based ethnicity and ethnic segregation in the early twentieth century U.S," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 1-19.
    14. Tabellini, Marco, 2020. "Gifts of the Immigrants, Woes of the Natives: Lessons from the Age of Mass Migration," CEPR Discussion Papers 14317, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. 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.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Emigration; Return migration; World War I; Immigration quotas;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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