NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

A Nation of Immigrants: Assimilation and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration

Ran Abramitzky, Leah Platt Boustan, Katherine Eriksson

NBER Working Paper No. 18011
Issued in April 2012
NBER Program(s):   DAE   LS

During the Age of Mass Migration (1850-1913), the US maintained an open border, absorbing 30 million European immigrants. Prior cross-sectional work on this era finds that immigrants initially held lower-paid occupations than natives but experienced rapid convergence over time. In newly-assembled panel data, we show that, in fact, the average immigrant did not face a substantial occupation-based earnings penalty upon first arrival and experienced occupational advancement at the same rate as natives. Cross-sectional patterns are driven by biases from declining arrival cohort quality and departures of negatively-selected return migrants. We show that assimilation patterns vary substantially across sending countries and persist in the second generation.

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This paper was revised on August 21, 2013

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18011

A Nation of Immigrants: Assimilation and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration,” with Leah Boustan and Katherine Eriksson, forthcoming Journal of Political Economy [current draft: August 2013]

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