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Immigration Restrictions as Active Labor Market Policy: Evidence from the Mexican Bracero Exclusion

Listed author(s):
  • Clemens, Michael A.

    ()

    (Center for Global Development)

  • Lewis, Ethan Gatewood

    ()

    (Dartmouth College)

  • Postel, Hannah M.

    ()

    (Center for Global Development)

An important class of active labor market policy has received little rigorous impact evaluation: immigration barriers intended to improve the terms of employment for domestic workers by deliberately shrinking the workforce. Recent advances in the theory of endogenous technical change suggest that such policies could have limited or even perverse labor-market effects, but empirical tests are scarce. We study a natural experiment that excluded almost half a million Mexican 'bracero' seasonal agricultural workers from the United States, with the stated goal of raising wages and employment for domestic farm workers. We build a simple model to clarify how the labor-market effects of bracero exclusion depend on assumptions about production technology, and test it by collecting novel archival data on the bracero program that allow us to measure state-level exposure to exclusion for the first time. We cannot reject the hypothesis that bracero exclusion had no effect on U.S. agricultural wages or employment, and find that important mechanisms for this result include both adoption of less labor-intensive technologies and shifts in crop mix.

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File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp10512.pdf
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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 10512.

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Length: 71 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2017
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10512
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  1. W. Walker Hanlon, 2015. "Necessity Is the Mother of Invention: Input Supplies and Directed Technical Change," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83, pages 67-100, 01.
  2. Brian C. Cadena & Brian K. Kovak, 2013. "Immigrants Equilibrate Local Labor Markets: Evidence from the Great Recession," NBER Working Papers 19272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Andreas Beerli & Giovanni Peri, 2015. "The Labor Market Effects of Opening the Border: New Evidence from Switzerland," NBER Working Papers 21319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Devadoss, Stephen & Luckstead, Jeff, 2008. "Contributions of Immigrant Farmworkers to California Vegetable Production," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 40(03), December.
  5. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green, 2003. "Wages and Employment in the United States and Germany: What Explains the Differences?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 573-602, June.
  6. Devadoss, Stephen & Luckstead, Jeff, 2008. "Contributions of Immigrant Farmworkers to California Vegetable Production," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 40(03), pages 879-894, December.
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