IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Impact of Skill-Based Immigration Restrictions: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882


  • Joyce J. Chen


This paper considers the impact of skill-based immigration restrictions, using the Chinese Exclusion Act as a natural experiment. I find that restrictions reduced the average occupational standing of Chinese immigrants, suggesting substitution between observed and unobserved skills. Conversely, children of restricted immigrants have greater human capital than those of unrestricted immigrants, despite restricted immigrants themselves having lower skill. This suggests particularly strong intergenerational transmission of skill among Chinese immigrants of the exclusion era. More generally, the findings indicate that the effects of skill-based restrictions are not always straightforward and may be heterogeneous across groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Joyce J. Chen, 2015. "The Impact of Skill-Based Immigration Restrictions: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(3), pages 298-328.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jhucap:doi:10.1086/683186
    DOI: 10.1086/683186

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Isaac Ehrlich & Jinyoung Kim, 2007. "The Evolution of Income and Fertility Inequalities over the Course of Economic Development: A Human Capital Perspective," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 137-174.
    2. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2014. "A Nation of Immigrants: Assimilation and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(3), pages 467-506.
    3. Robert C. Allen & Jean-Pascal Bassino & Debin Ma & Christine Moll-Murata & Jan Luiten Van Zanden, 2011. "Wages, prices, and living standards in China, 1738–1925: in comparison with Europe, Japan, and India," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64, pages 8-38, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Chen, Shuo & Xie, Bin, 2020. "Institutional Discrimination and Assimilation: Evidence from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882," IZA Discussion Papers 13647, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. 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.
    4. Ager, Philipp & Hansen, Casper Worm, 2017. "Closing Heaven's Door: Evidence from the 1920s U.S. Immigration Quota Acts," Discussion Papers of Business and Economics 11/2017, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Business and Economics.
    5. Philipp Ager & Casper Worm Hansen, 2016. "National Immigration Quotas and Local Economic Growth," Discussion Papers 16-11, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucp:jhucap:doi:10.1086/683186. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Journals Division). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.