Networks, neighborhoods, and migration in two generations: French Canadians and Franco Americans (1895-1950)

with Chris Minns

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 a major 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 potential depended in large part on selection into migration. Was it the best and brightest who chose to move south? Or, did relatively low migration costs, the availability of family and kin contact already in the United States mean that the relatively unskilled and least adaptable were prominent amongst the flows?

To answer these questions, the research proposes to draw a sample of the US-Canada Border Crossing Records (1895-1924). Specifically, from entrance ports in Vermont, New England. The records include details of occupation and physical stature (height); both of these can be compared to the occupational profile of stayers and the height profiles of other samples of the French Canadian population to assess from which part of the distribution migrants to the United States were drawn. The border crossing records also usually report the intended destination and contacts at this place. This information will allow us to discriminate between migrants who were networked and those who were not.

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The long-run effects of refugees. Evidence from the Mexican Revolution

with Ed Kosack and Zach Ward

 

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

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The project exploits one of the deadliest conflicts in world history: the Mexican Revolution (1910-1918). During the Revolution, about 1.4 million died and another 350,000 fled across the border. Hence, the conflict must have had a substantial impact on Mexican immigration at the time. The first part of the project aims to estimate municipality-level migration rates during the Mexican Revolution using individual border crossings from 1910 to 1920. These data consist of over 225,000 unique observations reporting the locality of origin of each immigrant (refugee). The migration rates jointly with pre-Revolution immigration data and local-level data on revolutionary insurgency will allow us to identify changes in immigration in terms of both origin and intensity. In addition, the within-state variation in revolutionary insurgency will allow us to discriminate between refugees and economic immigrants.

The second part of the project aims to use changes in immigration, induced by the Revolution, to examine the impact of refugee flows on Mexico’s long-run development. We intend to test the hypothesis that municipalities where migration rates increased due to revolutionary insurgency followed different development trajectories. Potential results can shed light on the persistent effects of refugees relative to economic immigrants. We will focus on local-level political turnovers as a possible channel of persistence. Mexico was ruled by a single political party (PRI) for 80 years. In 2000, the country experienced the first presidential turnover since the end of the Mexican Revolution. Novel historical data on local elections, however, reveal that turnovers at the municipality level started from the 1940s. These data allow us to examine if municipalities where migration intensity increased due to the presence of revolutionary insurgency were the first to observe local political turnovers, which then influenced better economic and development outcomes. Previous literature argues that immigrants are agents of democratic diffusion because they spread attitudes and behaviors absorbed in more democratic host countries (U.S.) to less democratic origin countries (Mexico). Therefore, immigration induced by major social conflicts such as civil wars can have long-lasting effects on the local development of the source through institutional change. The case of Mexico is unique because it provides the necessary political and migratory setting to analyze the relationship between migration, institutions, and development.

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Missing Migrants: The Impact of European Migration to Brazil during the Age of
Mass Migration

with Andrea Papadia and Ariell Zimran

How does migration affect the level of inequality in the receiving country? We contribute to answering this question by investigating the impact of European migration on land inequality in Brazil during the Age of Mass Migration, specifically the period 1872-1920. Brazil was one of the largest recipients of European migrants in this period and concomitantly saw a substantial increase in its inequality, which has persisted to this day. While a causal link is plausible - migrants were more skilled than the local population on average and were thus well placed to rapidly acquire productive assets - the inflows may have also disrupted the land-based oligarchic system already in place - known as Coronelismo - thus reducing overall inequality. Moreover, legal barriers aimed at slowing down the transition of migrants from agricultural laborers to landowners existed since the introduction of the Law of Land in 1850. To achieve causal identification and establish the link between immigration and land inequality, we exploit the geographical variation in migrant settlement caused by the enactment of the Decreto Prinetti in 1902, which outlawed subsidized emigration from Italy (Brazil’s main source country, until then), drastically reducing the number of Italians going to Brazil and thus also affecting the overall spatial distribution of foreigners across the country. In the analysis, we combine this exogenous shock with aggregate migrant flows and census data for 1872, 1890 and 1920. Our results indicate that, overall, migrant settlement did increase land inequality, as captured by Gini indices at the level of minimum comparable areas. This was particularly true in the Southeast of the country, home of the expanding coffee sector, and in the frontier West-Central region. In the migrant settler states of the South, the Amazon region, and the declining Northeast, instead, the effect was much less pronounced, suggesting a heterogenous impact of migration, in line with the suggestions of the historiography.

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