Migrant self-selection: Anthropometric evidence from the mass migration of Italians to the United States, 1907–1925

Yannay Spitzer, Ariell Zimran*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

We study migrant selection using the rich data generated by the migration of Italians to the US between 1907 and 1925. Comparing migrants’ heights to the height distributions of their birth cohorts in their provinces of origin produces a measure of selection that is exogenous to migration, representative, and generated by almost unrestricted migration. The Italian migration was negatively selected at the national level, but positively selected at the local level. Selection varied systematically within Italy, with more positive local selection from shorter and poorer provinces. Selection was more negative among individuals with stronger connections in the United States and became more positive after imposition of the literacy test in 1917. These results highlight the importance of measuring selection at the local level to fully understanding the composition of migrant flows, shed light on the potential impacts of screening policies, and support theories that relate networks to more negative selection.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)226-247
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Development Economics
Volume134
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are indebted to Joel Mokyr, Joseph Ferrie, Igal Hendel, and Matthew Notowidigdo for encouragement and guidance, and to Andrew Foster (the editor) and anonymous referees for detailed comments. For providing data, we are grateful to Peg Zitko and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Brian A'Hearn, Franco Peracchi, Giovanni Vecchi, and Jordi Martí-Henneberg. We also thank Ran Abramitzky, William Collins, Timothy Hatton, Richard Hornbeck, Taylor Jaworski, Andrea Matranga, Marian Smith, and Zachary Ward; seminar participants at Northwestern University, the London School of Economics, Tel Aviv University, and the University of Minnesota; and conference participants at the 2014 Warwick Economics PhD Conference, the 2014 Cliometrics Conference, the 2014 Economic History Association Annual Meetings, the 2014 Illinois Economic Association Annual Meeting, and the 2014 Social Science History Association Conference. Christine Chang and Elizabeth Nelson provided excellent research assistance. Thanks are also due to Roy Mill for giving us access to the dEntry transcription system. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SES-1425598. Additional financial support was provided by the Northwestern University Economics Department's Eisner Fund, the Northwestern University Center for Economic History, the Balzan Foundation, an Exploratory Data and Travel Grant from the Economic History Association, and an Economic History Association Dissertation Fellowship (Zimran) and Sokoloff Fellowship (Spitzer). Computations were performed on the Social Sciences Computing Cluster at Northwestern University. All errors are our own.

Funding Information:
We are indebted to Joel Mokyr, Joseph Ferrie, Igal Hendel, and Matthew Notowidigdo for encouragement and guidance, and to Andrew Foster (the editor) and anonymous referees for detailed comments. For providing data, we are grateful to Peg Zitko and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Brian A'Hearn, Franco Peracchi, Giovanni Vecchi, and Jordi Martí-Henneberg. We also thank Ran Abramitzky, William Collins, Timothy Hatton, Richard Hornbeck, Taylor Jaworski, Andrea Matranga, Marian Smith, and Zachary Ward; seminar participants at Northwestern University, the London School of Economics, Tel Aviv University, and the University of Minnesota; and conference participants at the 2014 Warwick Economics PhD Conference, the 2014 Cliometrics Conference, the 2014 Economic History Association Annual Meetings, the 2014 Illinois Economic Association Annual Meeting, and the 2014 Social Science History Association Conference. Christine Chang and Elizabeth Nelson provided excellent research assistance. Thanks are also due to Roy Mill for giving us access to the dEntry transcription system. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SES-1425598 . Additional financial support was provided by the Northwestern University Economics Department's Eisner Fund , the Northwestern University Center for Economic History , the Balzan Foundation, an Exploratory Data and Travel Grant from the Economic History Association , and an Economic History Association Dissertation Fellowship (Zimran) and Sokoloff Fellowship (Spitzer). Computations were performed on the Social Sciences Computing Cluster at Northwestern University. All errors are our own.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • Migrant selection
  • Migration
  • Stature

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