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Working Their Way Up? US Immigrants' Changing Labor Market Assimilation in the Age of Mass Migration

William J. Collins, Ariell Zimran

NBER Working Paper No. 26414
Issued in October 2019, Revised in June 2020
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Development Economics, Labor Studies, Political Economy

Whether immigrants advance in labor markets relative to natives is a fundamental question in immigration economics. It is difficult to answer this question for the Age of Mass Migration, when US immigration was at its peak. New datasets of linked census records show that immigrants experienced substantial "catching up" relative to natives' occupational status from 1850 to 1880, but not from 1900 to 1930. This change was not due to the shift in immigrant source countries. Instead, it was rooted in a sizable change in natives' occupations. The results revise the influential view that European immigrants "worked their way up".

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26414

 
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