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Birds of passage: Return migration, self-selection and immigration quotas

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  • Ward, Zachary

Abstract

A key feature of migration in the late 19th and early 20th century is that many migrants returned to Europe after a few years in the United States. A common view is that most temporary migrants planned, upon entry, to eventually return home, yet there is little direct evidence to support this claim. I collect the first dataset on migrants' intentions to stay or return home from Ellis Island arrival records between 1917 and 1924. I find that fewer migrants planned to return home than actually did; many migrants, especially from Eastern and Southern Europe, left the United States unexpectedly. The high rate of unplanned returns implies that the first few years after arrival were more difficult than expected. However, this high rate of unexpected returns lowered after the 1920s migration quotas, suggesting improved outcomes for those lucky enough to enter.

Suggested Citation

  • Ward, Zachary, 2017. "Birds of passage: Return migration, self-selection and immigration quotas," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 37-52.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:37-52
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2016.09.002
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    Cited by:

    1. Xu, Dafeng, 2020. "The effects of immigration restriction laws on immigrant segregation in the early twentieth century U.S," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 422-447.
    2. Fernihough, Alan & Ó Gráda, Cormac, 2019. "Across the sea to Ireland: Return Atlantic migration before the First World War," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2019-08, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    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. 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. Gray, Rowena & Narciso, Gaia & Tortorici, Gaspare, 2019. "Globalization, agricultural markets and mass migration: Italy, 1881–1912," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Rowena Gray & Gaia Narciso & Gaspare Tortorici, 2017. "Globalization, Agricultural Markets and Mass Migration," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1713, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2019. "To the New World and Back Again: Return Migrants in the Age of Mass Migration," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 72(2), pages 300-322, March.
    12. Alexander, Rohan & Ward, Zachary, 2018. "Age at Arrival and Assimilation During the Age of Mass Migration," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 78(3), pages 904-937, September.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. William J. Collins & Ariell Zimran, 2019. "Working Their Way Up? US Immigrants' Changing Labor Market Assimilation in the Age of Mass Migration," NBER Working Papers 26414, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. 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

    Return migration; Self-selection; Immigration quotas; Planned returns;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative

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