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Racism, Xenophobia or Markets? The Political Economy of Immigration Policy Prior to the Thirties

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  • Ashley S. Timmer
  • Jeffrey G. Williamson

Abstract

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the doors did not suddenly slam shut on American immigrants when Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act of May 1921. Rather, the United States started imposing restrictions a half century earlier. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, and Canada enacted similar measures, although the anti-immigration policy drift often took the form of an enormous drop in (or even the disappearance of) large immigrant subsidies. Contrary to conventional wisdom, there wasn't simply one big regime switch around World War I. What explains immigration policy between 1860-1930? This paper identifies the fundamentals that underlay the formation of immigration policy, distinguishes between the impact of these long run fundamentals and short run timing, and clarifies the difference between market and non-market forces. The key bottom line is this: Over the long haul, immigrant countries tried to maintain the relative economic position of unskilled labor, compared with skilled labor, landowner and industrialist. The morals for the present are obvious.

Suggested Citation

  • Ashley S. Timmer & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1996. "Racism, Xenophobia or Markets? The Political Economy of Immigration Policy Prior to the Thirties," NBER Working Papers 5867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5867
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    Cited by:

    1. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1998. "Globalization, Labor Markets and Policy Backlash in the Past," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 51-72, Fall.
    2. Facchini, Giovanni & Mayda, Anna Maria & Mishra, Prachi, 2011. "Do interest groups affect US immigration policy?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 114-128, September.
    3. Michel Beine & Brian B. Burgoon & Mary Crock & Justin Gest & Michael Hiscox & Patrick McGovern & Hillel Rapoport & Eiko Thielemann, 2015. "Measuring Immigration Policies: Preliminary Evidence from IMPALA," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 61(3-4), pages 527-559.
    4. de Carvalho Filho, Irineu & Monasterio, Leonardo, 2012. "Immigration and the origins of regional inequality: Government-sponsored European migration to southern Brazil before World War I," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(5), pages 794-807.
    5. Anna Maria Mayda, 2006. "Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 510-530, August.
    6. Solimano, Andres, 2001. "International migration and the global economic order : an interview," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2720, The World Bank.
    7. Paola Conconi & Giovanni Facchini & Max F. Steinhardt & Maurizio Zanardi, 2020. "The political economy of trade and migration: Evidence from the U.S. Congress," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(2), pages 250-278, July.
    8. repec:ilo:ilowps:373388 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Michel Beine & Anna Boucher & Brian Burgoon & Mary Crock & Justin Gest & Michael Hiscox & Patrick McGovern & Hillel Rapoport & Joep Schaper & Eiko Thielemann, 2016. "Comparing Immigration Policies: An Overview from the IMPALA Database," International Migration Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 827-863, December.
    10. Mayda, Anna Maria, 2005. "Who is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes Towards Immigration," CEPR Discussion Papers 5055, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Giovanni Facchini & Cecilia Testa, 2009. "Who Is Against a Common Market?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(5), pages 1068-1100, September.
    12. Kenneth F. Scheve & Matthew J. Slaughter, 1999. "Labor-Market Competition and Individual Preferences Over Immigration Policy," NBER Working Papers 6946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. William J. Collins & Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey Williamson, 1997. "Were Trade and Factor Mobility Substitutes in History?," NBER Working Papers 6059, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Facchini, Giovanni & Mayda, Anna Maria & Mishra, Prachi, 2011. "Do interest groups affect US immigration policy?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 114-128, September.
    15. Giovanni Facchini & Anna Maria Mayda, 2009. "The Political Economy of Immigration Policy," Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) HDRP-2009-03, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), revised Apr 2009.
    16. 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.
    17. Philipp Ager & Casper Worm Hansen, 2016. "National Immigration Quotas and Local Economic Growth," Discussion Papers 16-11, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    18. Andrés Solimano, 2003. "Development Cycles, Political Regimes and International Migration: Argentina in the Twentieth Century," WIDER Working Paper Series DP2003-29, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    19. Jim Dolmas & Gregory W. Huffman, 2000. "The dynamics of immigration policy with wealth-heterogeneous immigrants," Working Papers 0006, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    20. Facchini, Giovanni, 2002. "Why Join a Common Market? The Political Economy of International Factor Mobility in a Multi-country Setting," Working Papers 02-0121, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business.
    21. Solimano, Andrés, 2003. "Globalization and international migration: the Latin American experience," Revista CEPAL, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), August.
    22. Murard, Elie, 2017. "Less Welfare or Fewer Foreigners? Immigrant Inflows and Public Opinion towards Redistribution and Migration Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 10805, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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