US counties with more historical immigration have higher incomes and less poverty

Statue_of_LibertyUS counties with historically high levels of immigration have higher incomes, lower unemployment and less poverty today, according to a recent study.

Oxford University researchers studied the long-run effects of large-scale immigration in the US during the Age of Mass Migration – from 1860 to 1920.

Immigration during this period rose dramatically, as did the sources of immigration. In 1850 more than 90% of foreign-born people living in the United States were from either Great Britain, Ireland, or Germany. By 1920, this figure dropped to only 45%.

Immigration was found to result in large long-run economic benefits.

According to the paper, titled “Immigrants and the Making of America”, counties in the US with more historical immigrant settlement “have higher incomes, less unemployment, less poverty, more education, and higher shares of urban population.”

The team found that increasing the percentage of immigrants in a county by 4.9 percent results in:

  • a 13% increase in average per capita income today;
  • a 44 % increase in manufacturing output per capita from 1860-1920;
  • a 37% increase in farm values; and
  • a 152% increase in the number of patents per capita.

While the study focused on the Age of Mass Migration, the researchers believe that their estimates of the long-run effects of immigration “may still be relevant for assessing the long-run effects of immigrants today.”

The paper’s lead author, Sandra Sequeira, said: “What is fascinating is that despite the exceptionalism of this period in US history, there are several important parallels that one could draw between then and now.”

These parallels are “the large influx of unskilled labour, the small but important inflow of highly skilled innovators, as well as the significant short-run social backlash against immigration,” Sequeira added.

She concluded: “There is much to be learned from taking a longer perspective on the immigration debate.”

 

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