Smooth(er) Landing? The Role of Networks in the Location and Occupational Choice of Immigrants

Jose Tessada, The Brookings Institution
Jeanne Lafortune, University of Maryland

How does the presence of networks influence location and occupation decisions of immigrants over time? This paper tries to answer this using the location and occupation choices of immigrants implicit in the gross and net immigration flows by ethnicity, occupation and state coming to the US between 1900 and 1930. We compare the actual distribution of immigrants by intended (ex-ante) and by actual state (ex-post) of residence to counterfactual distributions constructed by allocating flows according to network proxies. We find the ex-ante distribution is best approximated by allocating migrants where ethnic and occupational networks exist while the ex-post distribution is mostly driven by ethnic-specific occupational networks. The importance of the latter decreases and that of occupational networks increases over time, which is consistent with migrants adopting the occupations of their ethnic network at arrival but slowly reverting to their original occupation as they learn more about local labor markets.

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Presented in Session 122: Labor Market Networks