When migrants rule: the legacy of mass migration on economic development in the US
This paper examines the extent to which the distinct settlement pattern of migrants arriving in the US during the big migration waves of the late 19th and early 20th centuries has left a legacy on the economic development of the counties where they settled and whether this legacy can be traced until today. Using data from the 1880, 1900 and 1910 censuses, we first look at the geography of migration across US counties in the 48 continental states. We then link this settlement pattern of migrants to current levels of local development – proxied by GDP per capita at county level in 2005 – while controlling for a number of factors which may have influenced both the location of migrants at the time of migration, as well as for the economic development of the county today. The results of the econometric analysis including instrumental variables underline that the big migration waves have left an indelible trace on territories which determines their economic performance until today. US counties which attracted large numbers of migrants more than a century ago are still more dynamic today than counties that did not. The results also show that the territorial imprint of migration has become more pervasive than all other local characteristics which would have determined and shaped economic performance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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