Explaining gender differences in the selection and sorting of migrants: Evidence from Canada-US migration (1895-1950)

with Chris Minns and Miko Lepisto

Project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

French Canadians made up one of the largest immigrant groups in the United States in the early 20th century, with almost 750,500 individuals of French Canadian parentage residing in the United States in 1930. French Canadian migrants were disproportionately concentrated in industrial towns in New England, where significant Franco-American communities were established and remained an important part of the urban landscape until at least the 1950s. The social and economic experiences in the United States drew much comment from both Canadian and American observers. Due to low rates of literacy, language barriers, and a tendency to concentrate in ethnic enclaves many contemporaries debated whether French Canadians would successfully assimilate into American society.​ For the first generation of French Canadian arrivals in the United States, economic progress depended in large part on two factors: selection into migration and sorting patterns across destinations. 

This paper uses newly digitized border crossing records from 1906 to 1954 and US census data to study the selection and sorting of migrants from Canada to the United States. We exploit evidence on physical stature (height) to assess selection patterns in the absence of wage data. We find that Canadian women and men were positively selected on height. Our results show that sorting across destinations was notably gender-specific. Among single women, employment opportunities, enclave effects, and destination marriage markets were important determinants of migrant sorting. These factors were less important for married women and unimportant for men. The destination choice of both single and married men was driven by differences in returns to skill. 

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The impact of violence during the Mexican Revolution on Migration to the United States

with Ed Kosack and Zach Ward

 

Project funded by the 2020 Carnevali Research Grant, Economic History Society.

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Between 1910 and 1920, one of the deadliest conflicts in world history occurred: the Mexican Revolution. During the Revolution, it is estimated that about 1.4 million people died (~9%) and another 350,000 (~2%) moved across the border to the United States (McCaa 2003). These estimates suggest that the Revolution was a key event that helped to kickstart migration to the United States. Before the Mexican Revolution, migration to the United States was limited, while afterwards, flows increased rapidly during the 1920s before the Great Depression. However, rather than push factors forcing refugees to flee, pull factors may have been more important. World War I caused a labor shortfall, which was filled by Mexican agricultural workers in the first Bracero program. Moreover, the 1920s United States quota laws shut out Southern and Eastern European immigrants, while leaving the door mostly open to Mexican immigrants. Ultimately, it is unclear how the Revolution contributed to migration between Mexican and the United States. 

 

In this paper, we examine the importance of violence during the Mexican Revolution on flows from Mexico to the United States. To estimate the impact of the Mexican Revolution on migration, we collect new high-frequency microdata: individual border crossings from 1910 and 1920. These data come from the Mexican Border Crossing Records and contain 225,283 unique observations reporting the locality of origin of each immigrant (refugee). With these data, we can calculate municipality-level migration rates at the monthly level. We combine these new migration data with newly digitized data on violent events during the Mexican Revolution. Violent events are recorded in military reports of the different factions that participated in the conflict. These reports are compiled in 8 volumes that constitute the “Military History of the Mexican Revolution” (Sánchez-Lamego 1976). From these reports, we identify 2,411 insurgency events—spanning from November 1910 to December 1915— and extract information about the location and severity of the event (shooting, combat, battle, or siege). To estimate the impact of violent events on migration, we implement an event study design where we compare migration rates from a municipality before and after the violent event. Preliminary results suggest that a violent event caused an increase in migration to the United States for approximately 2 to 3 months, before reverting to baseline levels after 5 months.

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The Effects of Immigration in an Agricultural Economy: Evidence from Brazil in the Age of Mass Migration

with Andrea Papadia and Ariell Zimran

Of the 55 million migrants who left Europe during the Age of Mass Migration, the majority went to the United States. But a substantial fraction of this migratory flow was directed instead to South America, where it was no less important in shaping the development of the receiving countries than it was in the United States (Hatton and Williamson 1998). While immigrants to the United States, particularly in the later portion of the Age of Mass Migration, found themselves in an economy that was rapidly industrialized, fueled in part by their labor (LaFortune, Lewis, and Tessada 2019), those who chose Latin America as their new home found themselves in a substantially more agricultural setting, where, even today, the effects of their arrival are not understood nearly as well.

In this paper, we study the effects of European mass immigration to Brazil, which was the recipient of roughly 3.5 million immigrants from 1850 to 1920. Although Brazil’s open-border policy mirrored that of the United States, the Brazilian economy differed from that of the United States in a number of ways that may have led immigration to have a different impact in the two places. Brazil was a land-abundant frontier economy,  with a rapidly expanding coffee export sector. Subsidized immigration was an important contributor to the broader immigration flow. And, measured according to literacy, migrants were generally more skilled than the local population. We find that areas of greater immigration in Brazil had higher farm values. This is not simply the result of greater labor abundance in areas that attracted immigration, but, based on results for the share of farmland that was cultivated, appears to have been the result of more intensive cultivation of the available farmland. This result suggests that immigration may have led to a reduction in inefficiency in the sense of potentially productive land going uncultivated. Immigration also resulted in a higher share of farms owned by immigrants—a non-trivial result in the context of a highly oligarchic land ownership system (coronelismo) with express efforts to delay the transition of migrants from agricultural labor to land ownership. But immigration appears to have had no impact on land ownership inequality, at least in the immediate term. Ongoing research for this project intends to determine whether there was an effect on inequality that took longer to develop, and which may have contributed to the contemporary growth in Brazilian inequality that persists to today. 

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