Unchained migration

Kevin Lewis

January 12, 2018

Immigrants' Genes: Genetic Diversity and Economic Development in the United States
Philipp Ager & Markus Brueckner
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming


This paper examines the relationship between immigrants' genetic diversity and economic development in the United States during the late nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, a period commonly referred to as the age of mass migration from Europe to the New World. Our panel model estimates show that during this period, immigrants' genetic diversity is significantly positively correlated with measures of U.S. counties' economic development. There exists also a significant positive relationship between immigrants' genetic diversity in 1870 and contemporaneous measures of U.S. counties' average income.

Race, Place, and Building a Base: Latino Population Growth and the Nascent Trump Campaign for President
Benjamin Newman, Sono Shah & Loren Collingwood
Public Opinion Quarterly, forthcoming


A prominent feature of Donald Trump’s campaign for president was the use of racially inflammatory rhetoric and fear over immigration — specifically from Mexico — to galvanize the electorate. Despite the commonly accepted assertion that hostility toward Mexican immigrants was an important attractor of core supporters to his base, analysts and academics alike have failed to explore the role that environmental indicators of perceived threat from immigration, such as residing in an area with a growing Latino population, played in generating support for Trump early in his campaign. We demonstrate that residing in a high-Latino-growth area is predictive of support for Trump following, but not before, his utterance of inflammatory and bellicose comments about Mexican immigrants. Our results suggest that, in addition to the importance of racial resentment and economic frustration, support for Trump in the early campaign period represented an adversarial reaction among Americans to Latino-led diversity.

Sanctuary Policies and City-Level Incidents of Violence, 1990 to 2010
Ricardo Martínez-Schuldt & Daniel Martínez
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming


Despite media coverage of isolated incidents of violent crime perpetuated by undocumented immigrants in cities with sanctuary policies, there is scant systematic research on the relationships between the adoption of sanctuary policies, unauthorized immigration, and crime. We compile city-level data from official sources and use fixed-effects negative binomial regression to examine whether the adoption of city-level sanctuary policies and the concentration of unauthorized Mexican immigrants are associated with homicide and robbery incidents in 107 U.S. cities, across three decades. We find evidence that the adoption of sanctuary policies is associated with a reduction in robberies but not homicide. In contrast, an increase in the relative size of a city’s unauthorized Mexican immigrant population corresponds with a reduction in homicide; however, only in sanctuary cities. Lastly, shifts in violence during our study period are consistently related to social structural characteristics of cities, which are findings consistent with social disorganization theory.

Does a CEO’s Cultural Heritage Affect Performance under Competitive Pressure?
Duc Duy Nguyen, Jens Hagendorff & Arman Eshraghi
Review of Financial Studies, January 2018, Pages 97–141


We exploit variation in the cultural heritage across U.S. CEOs who are the children or grandchildren of immigrants to demonstrate that the cultural origins of CEOs matter for corporate outcomes. Following shocks to industry competition, firms led by CEOs who are second- or third-generation immigrants are associated with a 6.2% higher profitability compared with the average firm. This effect weakens over successive immigrant generations and cannot be detected for top executives apart from the CEO. Additional analysis attributes this effect to various cultural values that prevail in a CEO’s ancestral country of origin.

Does Legal Status Affect Educational Attainment in Immigrant Families?
Zachary Liscow & William Woolston
Yale Working Paper, December 2017


Of the estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., 1.1 million are children. Due to differential treatment in the labor market, teenage undocumented immigrants face low returns to schooling. To measure the effect of legal status on the educational choices of Hispanic teenagers, we compare siblings who differ in their legal status due to their birth country. We find that teenagers who were born in Mexico are 2.7 percentage points more likely to be out of school than their U.S.-born siblings. Alternative explanations, such as differences in prenatal or childhood environment, appear largely unable to explain this result, suggesting that legal status has a significant impact on schooling decisions. After accounting for these alternative explanations to the extent possible and using proxies for legal status in U.S. Census, our results suggest that being undocumented roughly doubles high school students' dropout rate relative to their U.S.-born siblings, with substantial wage decreases implied by back-of-the-envelope calculations.

New Evidence of Generational Progress for Mexican Americans
Brian Duncan et al.
NBER Working Paper, November 2017


U.S.-born Mexican Americans suffer a large schooling deficit relative to other Americans, and standard data sources suggest that this deficit does not shrink between the 2nd and later generations. Standard data sources lack information on grandparents’ countries of birth, however, which creates potentially serious issues for tracking the progress of later-generation Mexican Americans. Exploiting unique NLSY97 data that address these measurement issues, we find substantial educational progress between the 2nd and 3rd generations for a recent cohort of Mexican Americans. Such progress is obscured when we instead mimic the limitations inherent in standard data sources.

Equal Justice: Examining the Effects of Citizenship, Documentation Status, and Country of Origin on Carceral Punishment Across Federal Districts
Melanie Holland
Criminal Justice Review, forthcoming


Empirical analysis of the disproportionate application of carceral punishment has traditionally targeted race and class inequality while omitting noncitizens as a systematically disadvantaged population within the criminal justice system. Of the limited extant literature on this issue, nearly all have examined overall incarceration odds while failing to account for prison alternative eligibility, inaccurately measuring judicial discretion. Likewise, none have disaggregated noncitizens across nationality, an oversight that implicitly assuming that all noncitizens are equal recipients of discrimination, likely suppressing noncitizen disadvantage. Finally, these studies often fail to include contextual measures in their analyses. Using data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC)’s Monitoring of Federal Sentences from 1999 to 2013, this study examines case-, district-, and cross-level effects of citizenship status, documentation status, and nationality on incarceration odds, prison alternatives, and sentence length for federal drug offenders. The results of this study support the hypothesis that noncitizens receive more severe sentencing outcomes than U.S. citizens, Mexican noncitizens receive more severe outcomes compared to those from other countries, and undocumented noncitizens receive more punitive outcomes, though these findings vary across districts. However, counter to minority threat theory, noncitizen (offender) populations do not appear to influence incarceration outcomes for noncitizen offenders in the projected direction.

International import competition and the decision to migrate: Evidence from Mexico
Kaveh Majlesi & Gaia Narciso
Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming


We analyze the effects of the increase in China's import competition on Mexican domestic and international migration. We exploit the variation in exposure to competition from China, following its accession to the WTO in 2001, across Mexican municipalities and estimate the effect of international competition on the individual decision to migrate. Controlling for individual and municipality features, we find that individuals living in municipalities more exposed to Chinese import competition are more likely to migrate to other municipalities within Mexico, while a negative effect is found on the decision to migrate to the US. In particular, we find that Chinese import competition reduces migrants' negative self-selection: the rising international competition lowers the likelihood of low-educated, low-income people to migrate to the US, by making them more financially constrained. We do not find any evidence that changes in demand for Mexican workers in the US drive our results.

Income Comparisons and Attitudes towards Foreigners - Evidence from a Natural Experiment
Walter Hyll & Lutz Schneider
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming


We exploit a natural experiment related to the German re-unification to address whether disutility from income comparisons affects attitudes towards foreigners. Our empirical approach rests upon East German individuals with West German relatives and friends. We use the exogenous variation of wealth of West Germans shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall as an instrument to identify the effect of disutility from income comparisons on East Germans’ attitudes. We find robust evidence that East Germans express more negative attitudes towards foreigners, particularly from low-wage countries, if they worry about their economic status compared to better-off West Germans.

Work Disability Among Native-born and Foreign-born Americans: On Origins, Health, and Social Safety Nets
Michal Engelman et al.
Demography, December 2017, Pages 2273–2300


Public debates about both immigration policy and social safety net programs are increasingly contentious. However, little research has explored differences in health within America’s diverse population of foreign-born workers, and the effect of these workers on public benefit programs is not well understood. We investigate differences in work disability by nativity and origins and describe the mix of health problems associated with receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Our analysis draws on two large national data sources — the American Community Survey and comprehensive administrative records from the Social Security Administration — to determine the prevalence and incidence of work disability between 2001 and 2010. In sharp contrast to prior research, we find that foreign-born adults are substantially less likely than native-born Americans to report work disability, to be insured for work disability benefits, and to apply for those benefits. Overall and across origins, the foreign-born also have a lower incidence of disability benefit award. Persons from Africa, Northern Europe, Canada, and parts of Asia have the lowest work disability benefit prevalence rates among the foreign-born; persons from Southern Europe, Western Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the Caribbean have the highest rates.

Assessing the Effectiveness of Pay-to-Go Policies: Evidence from Spain's Voluntary Return Program
Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Susan Pozo
International Migration Review, forthcoming


Pay-to-go programs are incentive-based policies implemented by immigrant-receiving nations with the intention of enticing migrants home. Spain introduced such a program following its recent economic downturn. We assess its effectiveness using a difference-in-differences methodology. We test if the policy lowered the unemployment likelihood of eligible migrants by comparing changes in their propensity to be unemployed from before to after program implementation to changes experienced by similar non-eligible migrants. The Spanish pay-to-go policy did not entice immigrants to return home, except among Latin Americans, who enjoyed statistically and economically significant reductions in their unemployment likelihood following program implementation.

Asylum applications respond to temperature fluctuations
Anouch Missirian & Wolfram Schlenker
Science, 22 December 2017, Pages 1610-1614


International negotiations on climate change, along with recent upsurges in migration across the Mediterranean Sea, have highlighted the need to better understand the possible effects of climate change on human migration — in particular, across national borders. Here we examine how, in the recent past (2000–2014), weather variations in 103 source countries translated into asylum applications to the European Union, which averaged 351,000 per year in our sample. We find that temperatures that deviated from the moderate optimum (~20°C) increased asylum applications in a nonlinear fashion, which implies an accelerated increase under continued future warming. Holding everything else constant, asylum applications by the end of the century are predicted to increase, on average, by 28% (98,000 additional asylum applications per year) under representative concentration pathway (RCP) scenario 4.5 and by 188% (660,000 additional applications per year) under RCP 8.5 for the 21 climate models in the NASA Earth Exchange Global Daily Downscaled Projections (NEX-GDDP).

Mexico-US Immigration: Effects of Wages and Border Enforcement
Rebecca Lessem
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming


In this paper, I study how relative wages and border enforcement affect immigration from Mexico to the United States. To do this, I develop a discrete choice dynamic programming model where people choose from a set of locations in both the US and Mexico, while accounting for the location of one’s spouse when making decisions. I estimate the model using data on individual immigration decisions from the Mexican Migration Project. Counterfactuals show that a 10% increase in Mexican wages reduces migration rates and durations, overall decreasing the number of years spent in the US by about 5%. A 50% increase in enforcement reduces migration rates and increases durations of stay in the US, and the overall effect is a 7% decrease in the number of years spent in the US.

The New Third Generation: Post-1965 Immigration and the Next Chapter in the Long Story of Assimilation
Tomás Jiménez, Julie Park & Juan Pedroza
International Migration Review, forthcoming


Now is the time for social scientists to focus an analytical lens on the new third generation to see what their experiences reveal about post-1965 assimilation. This paper is a first step. We compare the household characteristics of post-1965, second-generation Latino and Asian children in 1980 to a “new third generation” in 2010. Today's new third generation is growing up in households headed by parents who have higher socioeconomic attainment; that are more likely to be headed by intermarried parents; that are less likely to contain extended family; and that, when living with intermarried parents, are more likely to have children identified with a Hispanic or Asian label compared to second-generation children growing in 1980. We use these findings to inform a larger research agenda for studying the new third generation.


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