Ariell Zimran
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Working Their Way Up? US Immigrants' Changing Labor Market Assimilation in the Age of Mass Migration
with William J. Collins
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 15:3, pp. 238-269
Revised version of NBER Working Paper 26414

Whether immigrants advance in labor markets during their lifetimes relative to natives is a fundamental question in the economics of immigration. We examine linked census records for five cohorts spanning 1850-1940, when immigration to the United States was at its peak. We find a U-shaped pattern of assimilation: immigrants were "catching up" to natives in the early and later cohorts, but not in between. This change was not due to shifts in immigrants' source countries. Instead, it was rooted in men's early-career occupations, which we associate with structural change, strengthening complementarities, and large immigration waves in the 1840s and 1900s.