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The Effect of Immigrants on Economic and Political Outcomes in the United States

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (PST)

Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom D
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Paola Giuliano, University of California-Los Angeles

Diversity in Schools: Immigrants and the Educational Performance of Natives

David Figlio
,
Northwestern University
Paola Giuliano
,
University of California-Los Angeles
Riccardo Marchingiglio
,
Northwestern University
Umut Ozek
,
American Institutes for Research
Paola Sapienza
,
Northwestern University

Abstract

We study the effect of exposure to immigrant peers on the educational outcomes of native students, using a unique dataset combining birth records and population-level administrative data from the Florida Department of Education. We focus on the cumulative cohort-school-specific exposure to foreign-born students throughout a native student's educational career, and we identify our parameter of interest by comparing siblings’ performances in standardized test scores in mathematics and reading. Our identification strategy and robustness analysis allows us to partial out the unobserved non-random selection into schools. We find a positive and statistically significant association between the cumulative exposure to foreign-born students and native students' test scores. We study potential non –exclusive mechanisms that could drive the main result: our evidence suggests that immigrants behave better than natives and cause fewer disruption in daily activity, possibly improving the learning environment (Lazear, 2001).

Changing In-Group Boundaries: The Role of New Immigrant Waves in the United States

Vasiliki Fouka
,
Stanford University
Soumyajit Mazumder
,
Harvard University
Marco Tabellini
,
Harvard Business School

Abstract

How do boundaries of in-groups and out-groups in a society evolve? Does the appearance of a new out-group foster or hinder the incorporation of previously excluded groups? We present a conceptual framework where individuals classify others into in- or out-groups depending on their perceived distance. Such perceived distance is context dependent, and falls with the arrival of a socially more distant group. We test the predictions of the model, and study how Mexican immigration to the US between 1970 and 2010 affected native whites' attitudes towards African Americans. We combine nationally representative survey data with a difference-in-differences design, and predict changes in the Mexican share across states relying on the historical distribution of ethnic enclaves. Consistent with the model, we find that Mexican immigrants reduce whites' prejudice against blacks, and shift racial policy preferences in a more liberal direction. As predicted by the model, these effects: i) are larger for whites who perceive a higher distance between blacks and Hispanics; ii) spill over onto other immigrant groups, as nativity (vs race) becomes a more salient feature of group identification; and iii) are not found when looking at immigration of relatively closer groups, such as Canadians and Europeans. Our findings have broader implications for inter-group relations in racially and ethnically diverse societies.

Leadership in Social Networks: Evidence from the Forty-Eighters in the Civil War

Christian Dippel
,
University of California-Los Angeles
Stephan Heblich
,
University of Bristol

Abstract

A growing theoretical literature emphasizes that prominent individuals (‘leaders’) can be instrumental in changing behaviors and beliefs inside social networks, and consequently play an important role in shaping the path of history. We test this assertion in the context of the U.S. Civil War. Our analysis is organized around the natural experiment of the “Forty-Eighter” anti-slavery campaigners’ settlement in the U.S., and their impact on the mobilization of Union Army volunteers. Towns where Forty-Eighters settled in the 1850s increased their enlistments by ten men per hundred adult males over the course of the war, or roughly eighty percent. The Forty-Eighters’ influence worked at least in part through the local press and local social clubs. In the army, Forty-Eighter officers reduced their companies’ desertion rate. In the long run, towns where Forty-Eighters settled were more likely to form a local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Immigration, Innovation and Growth

Konrad Burchardi
,
Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES)
Thomas Chaney
,
Sciences Po
Tarek Hassan
,
Boston University
Lisa Tarquinio
,
Boston University
Stephen J. Terry
,
Boston University

Abstract

Building upon endogenous growth theory, we show a causal impact of immigration on innovation and dynamism in US counties. In order to identify the causal impact of immigration, we use 130 years of detailed data on migrations from foreign countries to US counties to isolate quasi-random variation in the ancestry composition of US counties that results purely from the interaction of two forces: (i) changes over time in the relative attractiveness of different destinations within the US to the average migrant arriving at the time and (ii) the staggered timing of arrival of migrants from different origin countries. We then use this plausibly exogenous variation in ancestry composition to predict the total number of migrants flowing into each US county in recent decades. We show four main results. First, immigration has a positive impact on innovation, measured by patenting of local firms. Second, immigration has a positive impact on measures of local dynamism, as endogenous growth theory predicts. Third, the positive impact of immigration on innovation percolates over space, but spatial spillovers quickly die with distance. Fourth, the impact of immigration on innovation is stronger for more educated migrants.
Discussant(s)
Daniele Paserman
,
Boston University
Giovanni Peri
,
University of California-Davis
Saumitra Jha
,
Stanford University
Omer Ozak
,
University of California-Los Angeles
JEL Classifications
  • J6 - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers