The Journal of Economic History


The Immigrant Assimilation Puzzle in Late Nineteenth-Centuty America

Timothy J. Hattona1

a1 Professor of Economics at the University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex C04 3SQ, U.K.


Recent studies suggest that the earnings of pre-1890 immigrants grew slowly compared with those of natives and imply that these immigrants did not assimilate well into the American labor market. Using data for Michigan and California this article estimates new specifications for immigrant and native-born earnings, and finds that immigrants who arrived as children had similar earnings profiles to the native-born. Immigrants who arrived as adults suffered an initial earnings disadvantage but their earnings grew faster than those of the native-born. These results are consistent with the traditional view that pre-1890 immigrants assimilated well.