Where Do U.S. Immigrants Come From, and Why?
The United States has experienced rising immigration levels and changing source since the 1950s. The changes in source have been attributed to the 1965 Amendments to the Immigration Act that abolished country-quotas and replaced them with a system that emphasized family reunification. Some believed that the Amendments would not change the 'traditional' sources of US immigrants. Given this view, it seems all the more remarkable that the sources of immigration changed so dramatically. This paper isolates the economic and demographic fundamentals that determined immigration rates by source from 1971 to 1998 -- income, education, demographic composition and inequality. The paper also allows for persistence - big US foreign-born stocks implying a strong 'friends and neighbors' pull on current immigrant flows. Specific policy variables are included which are derived directly from the quotas allocated to different visa categories. Parameter estimates from the panel data are then used to implement counterfactual simulations that serve to isolate the effects of immigration policy as well as source-country economic and demographic conditions.
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