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How did the Miami labor market absorb the Mariel immigrants?

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  • Ethan Lewis

Abstract

Card's (1990) well-known analysis of the Mariel boatlift concluded that this mass influx of mostly less-skilled Cubans to Miami had little impact on the labor market outcomes of the city's less-skilled workers. This paper evaluates two explanations for this. First, consistent with an open-economy framework, this paper asks whether after the boatlift, Miami increased its production of unskilled-intensive manufactured goods, allowing it to "export" the impact of the boatlift. Second, this paper asks whether Miami adapted to the boatlift by implementing new skill-complementary technologies more slowly than would have otherwise been the case. Using a confidential micro data version of the Annual Surveys of Manufactures, I show that following the boatlift, Miami's relative output of different manufacturing industries trended similarly to other cities with similar pre-boatlift trends in manufacturing mix. The response of industry mix to the boatlift therefore appears to be small. Supporting the second type of adjustment, utilization of Cuban labor by Miami's industries rose proportionately to the supply increase generated by the boatlift. In addition, post-boatlift computer use at work was lower in Miami than in other cities with similar levels of computer-based employment before the event, even among non-Hispanic workers in the same detailed cells defined by industry, occupation, and education. This suggests the boatlift induced Miami's industries to employ more unskilled-intensive production technologies. The results suggest an explanation for why native wages are consistently found to be insensitive to local immigration shocks: markets adapt production technology to local factor supplies.

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  • Ethan Lewis, 2004. "How did the Miami labor market absorb the Mariel immigrants?," Working Papers 04-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedpwp:04-3
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    Cited by:

    1. Bodvarsson, Örn B. & Van den Berg, Hendrik F. & Lewer, Joshua J., 2008. "Measuring immigration's effects on labor demand: A reexamination of the Mariel Boatlift," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 560-574, August.
    2. Lafortune, Jeanne & Tessada, José & González-Velosa, Carolina, 2015. "More hands, more power? Estimating the impact of immigration on output and technology choices using early 20th century US agriculture," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 339-358.
    3. David Card, 2009. "Immigration and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 14683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Saiz, Albert, 2007. "Immigration and housing rents in American cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 345-371, March.
    5. Christian Dustmann & Albrecht Glitz, 2015. "How Do Industries and Firms Respond to Changes in Local Labor Supply?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(3), pages 711-750.
    6. De Arcangelis, Giuseppe & Di Porto, Edoardo & Santoni, Gianluca, 2015. "Migration, labor tasks and production structure," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 156-169.
    7. Guadalupe Serrano & Francisco Requena & Joan Martin-Montaner, 2012. "Immigration, Factor Endowments and the Productive Structure of Spanish Regions, 1996--2005," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(7), pages 927-945, November.
    8. Leah Platt Boustan & Price V. Fishback & Shawn Kantor, 2010. "The Effect of Internal Migration on Local Labor Markets:American Cities during the Great Depression," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(4), pages 719-746, October.
    9. Beaudry, Paul & Green, David A. & Sand, Benjamin M., 2014. "Spatial equilibrium with unemployment and wage bargaining: Theory and estimation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 2-19.
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