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

Michael A. Clemens, Ethan G. Lewis, Hannah M. Postel

NBER Working Paper No. 23125
Issued in February 2017, Revised in July 2017
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Labor Studies

There has been little rigorous evaluation of immigration barriers intended to improve domestic terms of employment by shrinking the workforce. We study one such barrier, a policy change that excluded almost half a million Mexican bracero seasonal agricultural workers from the United States. Using novel data to measure state-level exposure to the policy, we reject the wage effect of bracero exclusion predicted by theory in the absence of induced technical change. We fail to reject the hypothesis that exclusion did not affect U.S. agricultural wages or employment. Important mechanisms include adoption of less labor-intensive technologies and shifts in crop mix.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23125

Published: Michael A. Clemens & Ethan G. Lewis & Hannah M. Postel, 2018. "Immigration Restrictions as Active Labor Market Policy: Evidence from the Mexican Bracero Exclusion," American Economic Review, vol 108(6), pages 1468-1487.

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