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How much did immigrant “quality” decline in late nineteenth century America?

Abstract.

Early twentieth century observers argued that recent American immigrants were inferior, and in particular less skilled, than the old. I estimate wage equations for 1909 allowing for different effects by nationality and for different characteristics on arrival. I then apply the estimated wage differentials to the immigrant composition to measure the effect of changing composition on immigrant earnings. Finally I ask how immigrant earning power changed relative to that of native Americans. I conclude that immigrant “quality” in terms of earnings did decline due to shifting composition but these effects are very small compared with those reported in studies of the post-second World War period.

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Received: 1 September 1997/Accepted: 6 June 1998

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Hatton, T. How much did immigrant “quality” decline in late nineteenth century America?. J Popul Econ 13, 509–525 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/s001480050149

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s001480050149

  • JEL classification: J15
  • J31
  • J61
  • N11
  • Key words: United States immigration history