Asian Exclusion in American Immigration Policy

  • Zachary Gochenour
Part of the Studies in Public Choice book series (SIPC, volume 37)


The closing of the United States to immigrants is arguably the most economically and socially significant policy shift in American history. The U.S. had virtually open borders until 1875, when the first of a series of federal laws prohibiting or limiting immigration of particular groups was passed. The first such group was Asian immigrants, mostly Chinese, who were excluded by a series of bills in the late nineteenth century. Using data from the U.S. Congressional record, I attempt to explain the policy shift in public choice terms: identifying voting patterns that can be explained by shifts in public and elite opinion, the incentives of policymakers, and changing economic conditions. Explanations of the policy shift from previous scholarship are evaluated in light of roll-call voting data and NOMINATE scores.



The author is grateful to Bryan Caplan, Keith Poole, Alex Nowrasteh, Samuel Wilson, Don Boudreaux, Peter Leeson, and Josh Hall for helpful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zachary Gochenour
    • 1
  1. 1.James Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA

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