Working Papers

"Immigration and Economic Opportunity" (Job Market Paper)

How children of U.S.-born adapt to immigration-induced local changes is empirically ambiguous and understudied. Uncovering the impact of exposure to immigrants during childhood helps us understand the dynamic responses to immigration and the implications for intergenerational mobility. To study the impact, I link children of U.S.-born in each of the 1900 to 1920 U.S. censuses to their adulthood years in the following censuses until 1940. I instrument immigration’s destination choice by exploiting the disparities of preexisting immigration settlement patterns and the variation in their arrivals from 1900 to 1920. I find that immigration induces children of U.S.-born to accumulate more human capital. However, children of higher-skilled fathers adapt better and benefit more than their peers. The findings indicate that though immigration induces skill upgrading, it increases U.S.-born cross-generation skill persistence. The incentive to specialize may explain the skill upgrading; exposure to immigrants during childhood encourages children of U.S.-born to specialize in less immigrant-intensive and higher-skilled occupations. Mobility expands specialization opportunities; immigration-induced rural-to-urban migration makes higher-skilled jobs more accessible for the U.S.-born.


Presented at: Social Science History Association (SSHA) Annual Conference, Southern California Graduate Conference in Applied Economics (SOCAE), USC Applied Micro Seminar, California State University Long Beach (CSULB) Economic Seminar, All California Labor Economics Conference (ACLEC), Economic History Association meetings (Poster),  IPUMS Data-Intensive Research Conference (NDIRA) (Poster), USC Brown Bag, Global Migration Center Summer School

Works in Progress

"The Returns to HBCUs for Blacks in the 20th Century" (with Jorge De la Roca)

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been an important platform for African-American children to access higher education. This paper examines the effect of HBCU openings on local economic outcomes between 1870 and 1940 using the full-count censuses. While around 80% of the openings were between 1880 and 1900, we focus on the timing of the first opening in a county and adapt the staggered difference-in-difference strategy to estimate the effect of HBCU establishment. We estimate the impact while doubly robust conditioning on several county characteristics to address the endogenous concern of opening locations. We show that HBCU openings increase local Black’s mean occupational scores and encourage Black workers to switch jobs from the agricultural sector to higher-skilled manufacturing and non-manual occupations. The results are not driven by in-migrants whom the new establishment attracted. We plan to examine whether HBCUs foster Black leadership and future civil engagement. 

"How the Great Migration Changed the South" (with Jack Chapel) [draft coming soon!]

The Great Migration of 6 million Black Americans out of the South during 1910–1970 transformed the landscape of American society with far-reaching demographic, economic, and political consequences across the country. While the outcomes for the migrants and the places they went have been the subject of much research, empirical investigation of the impacts this mass migration episode had on the communities the migrants left is lacking. This paper studies the effects of Black out-migration to the North/West on southern labor markets during the first wave of the Great Migration (1910–1940). We use the Census Tree links (Buckles et al., 2023) to link full count Censuses, construct county migration rates, and estimate their impact on county- and individual-level outcomes. Migrants out of the South were positively selected on dimensions such as literacy and occupational income score compared to the general population and other migrants within the South; the magnitudes of selection attenuated but remained significant when comparing within sub-county locations (city, town). Despite the positive selection, counties with more migration out of the South experienced faster increases in average income scores and transitions to the non-agricultural sector. To isolate the contribution of migration to these changes, we construct a Bartik-style “demand-pull” instrument to estimate the impacts of out-migration spurred by increasing labor demand in the North/West. Increased migration due to rising labor demand in non-southern counties caused southern counties’ employment share in agriculture to decline and employment shares in both manual and non-manual jobs in the non-agricultural sector to increase. Considering individuals who did not migrate, those remaining in counties with more migration out of the South were more likely to upgrade occupations ten years later. Our findings suggest southern Black out-migration attracted by the rising labor demand in the North encouraged occupational upgrading and growth in non-agricultural sectors in Southern economies.

"Immigration and Internal Migration" (with Jack Chapel and Daniel Angel Quintana)

Evidence has shown that immigrants were at least as mobile as native-born (Zimran, 2022). Are immigrants more likely to move to opportunities? To answer this question, my co-authors and I start by documenting immigrants’ internal migration patterns after arriving in the U.S. using the linked censuses. Immigrants assimilated and migrated less often as they spent more time in the U.S.; nevertheless, they were still more mobile than native-born individuals. In addition, we show that the enclaves of European immigrants shifted Westward on a larger scale than the general population in the early twentieth century. While the old network persisted, e.g., Germans clustered around the Great Lakes, and Italians concentrated in Eastern coastal cities, foreign-born populations disproportionately settled in Western emerging cities. We seek to explore further the migration selection into new Western cities. Moreover, motivated by the empirical evidence that immigration-induced reallocation of skills may boost productivity and economic growth, we aim to quantify the contribution of immigration inflows to economic development in sprouting cities during the early twentieth century.

"Compete Opportunities: New Waves and Early Arrivals Immigrants"

Immigrants have long aspired to pursue prosperity and upward mobility by moving to the U.S., a land of opportunity. Do opportunities ever deplete? How do new waves of immigrants compete for opportunities with earlier arrivals? Though many studies focus on immigration assimilation, we know little about how new waves of immigrants affect the economic performance of the children of the early arrivals. I examine the effect of immigration in the childhood location on the economic performance of the children of immigrants and find similar results. To study the impact, I link the second-generation immigrant children in the 1900-1920 U.S. censuses to their adulthood between 1910 and 1940. I instrument immigration’s destination choice by exploiting the disparities of pre-existing immigration settlement patterns and the variation in their arrivals during 1900-1920. I find that new arrivals of immigrants raise the occupation ranks of the children of immigrants in earlier waves. Moreover, the positive effect is driven by immigration inflows from Southeastern Europe. The evidence is consistent with the specialization story since Southeastern European immigrants were overrepresented in lower-skilled manual occupations among foreign-born populations; nearly 40% of immigrants from Southeastern Europe were operative workers. 

"Marriage and the Incidence of Local Labor Demand Shocks"