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