Gifts of the Immigrants, Woes of the Natives: Lessons from the Age of Mass Migration (2018). JOB MARKET PAPER
Abstract: In this paper, I show that political opposition to immigration can arise even when immigrants bring significant economic prosperity to receiving areas. I exploit exogenous variation in European immigration to US cities between 1910 and 1930 induced by World War I and the Immigration Acts of the 1920s, and instrument immigrants' location decision relying on pre-existing settlement patterns. Immigration increased natives' employment and occupational standing, and fostered industrial production and capital utilization. However, despite these economic benefits, it triggered hostile political reactions, such as the election of more conservative legislators, higher support for anti-immigration legislation, and lower public goods provision. Stitching the economic and the political results together, I provide evidence that natives' backlash was, at least in part, due to cultural differences between immigrants and natives, suggesting that diversity might be economically beneficial but politically hard to manage.
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From Immigrants to Americans: Race, Status, and Assimilation During the Great Migration (2018), with Vasiliky Fouka and Shom Mazumder.
Abstract: How does the appearance of a new out-group affect the economic, social, and cultural integration of previous outsiders? We study this question in the context of the first Great Migration (1915-1930), when 1.5 million African Americans moved from the US South to urban centers in the North, where 30 million Europeans had arrived since 1850. We test the hypothesis that black inflows led to the establishment of a binary black-white racial classification, and facilitated the incorporation of -- previously racially ambiguous -- European immigrants into the white majority. We exploit variation induced by the interaction between 1900 settlements of southern-born blacks in northern cities and state-level outmigration from the US South after 1910. Black arrivals increased both the effort exerted by immigrants and their eventual Americanization. These average effects mask substantial heterogeneity: while initially less integrated groups (i.e. Southern and Eastern Europeans) exerted more effort, assimilation success was larger for those that were culturally closer to native whites (i.e. Western and Northern Europeans). These patterns are consistent with a framework in which perceptions of racial threat among native whites lower the barriers to the assimilation of white immigrants.
Racial Heterogeneity and Local Government Finances: Evidence from the Great Migration (2018)
Abstract: Is racial heterogeneity responsible for the distressed financial conditions of US central cities and for their limited ability to provide even basic public goods? If so, why? I study these questions exploiting the movement of more than 1.5 million African Americans from the South to the North of the United States during the first wave of the Great Migration (1915-1930). Black immigration and the induced white outmigration ("white flight") are both instrumented for using, respectively, pre-migration settlements and their interaction with MSA geographic characteristics that affect the cost of moving to the suburbs. The inflow of African Americans imposed a strong, negative fiscal externality on receiving places by lowering property values and, mechanically, reducing tax revenues. Unable or unwilling to raise tax rates, cities cut public spending, especially in education, to meet a tighter budget constraint. While the fall in tax revenues was partly offset by higher debt, this strategy may, in the long run, have proven unsustainable, contributing to the financially distressed conditions of several US central cities today.
Happily Ever After: Immigration, Natives' Marriage, and Fertility (2018), with Michela Carlana
Abstract: In this paper, we study the effects of immigration on natives’ marriage, fertility, and family formation across US cities between 1910 and 1930. Instrumenting immigrants’ location decision by interacting pre-existing ethnic settlements with aggregate migration flows, we find that immigration raised marriage rates, fertility, and the propensity to leave the parental house for young native men and women. We show that these effects were driven by the large and positive impact of immigration on native men’s employment and occupational standing, which increased the supply of “marriageable men”. We also explore alternative mechanisms – changes in sex ratios, natives’ cultural responses, and displacement effects of immigrants on female employment – and provide evidence that none of them can account for a quantitatively relevant fraction of our results.
Economic Integration and Democracy: An Empirical Investigation (2016), with Giacomo Magistretti.
Abstract: We study whether economic integration fosters the process of democratization, and the channels through which this might happen. Our analysis is based on a large panel dataset of countries between 1950 and 2014. We instrument actual trade with predicted trade constructed by estimating a time-varying gravity equation similar to Feyrer (2009). We find that economic integration has a positive effect on democracy, which is driven by trade with democratic partners, and is stronger for countries with lower initial levels of economic and institutional development. These results are consistent with a learning/cultural exchange process whereby economic integration promotes the spread of democracy from more to less democratic countries. We corroborate this interpretation by providing evidence against alternative mechanisms, such as income effects, human capital accumulation, and trade-induced changes in inequality.
Research in Progress:
The Economic and Political Effects of Outmigration from the US South During the Great Migration (2017), with Leah Boustan
Abstract: Between 1940 and 1970, the US South lost more than 4 million African Americans, or 40 percent of its 1940 black population. This paper examines how this large reduction in labor supply influenced the mechanization of southern agriculture and the realignment of the southern political landscape. Using a “reversed” version of the classic shift-share instrument common in the immigration literature, we find that black outmigration from southern counties: i) favored the mechanization of agriculture, in turn increasing the average value per acre of farmed land; ii) induced planters to change their crop-mix, switching away from labor intensive crops such as cotton; and iii) reduced the share of blacks working as farm tenants, likely because white planters shifted from sharecropping on small plots to hired labor on consolidated farms. We plan to extend our analysis to study the effect of black out-migration on southern politics, focusing in particular on vote shares and turnout in Presidential elections and on differences in spending on education between white and black schools.
Measuring Attitudes Towards Immigration Using Newspapers' Data and Congressional Speeches (2017), with Leonardo D'Amico
Abstract: In this project, we exploit plausibly exogenous variation in European immigration to US cities between 1910 and 1930 induced by World War I and the US Immigration Acts of the 1920s to study if the inflow of immigrants increased the salience of immigration and, in particular, racism. Using local newspapers’ data, we find that immigration not only increased the frequency of generic terms related to immigration, but also, induced newspapers to adopt more racist terms when referring to the foreign born (e.g. “Inferior Races”; “Beaten Races”; etc.). Preliminary findings further suggest that immigration largely increased the salience of social issues, but only marginally affected the frequency of economic terms. We will complement our existing analysis by using data from Congressional speeches and ads posted by politicians in local newspapers around the time of elections to test if political parties adjusted their policy platform in response to immigration and the induced shift in sentiments of their constituency.
Can Cuts in Government Spending be Expansionary?, with Nicola Fontana, 2013 (Revised, March 2015). Mimeo.