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Soc Sci Hist. 2016 Spring;40(1):147-181. doi: 10.1017/ssh.2015.84. Epub 2016 Jan 25.

Socioeconomic Attainment in the Ellis Island Era.

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Brown University, Office of Evaluation and Research.
NYC Human Resources Administration, Office of Evaluation and Research.


Contemporary discussions of immigrant assimilation in the United States often take the experience of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a benchmark, yet significant gaps remain in our understanding of the generality and rate of immigrant progress during that era. Using four decades of IPUMS census microdata, we utilize both OLS microdata regression and double cohort methodology to examine socioeconomic assimilation across arrival cohort and country of origin during the Ellis Island era. Our results show, contrary to some writing, that while the first generation (the foreign born) exhibit decidedly inferior labor market outcomes, socioeconomic attainment (measured by Socio-Economic Index [SEI] points) increased quickly with duration in the U.S. Persons of the second generation and those of mixed parentage show much less penalty than immigrants. At the same time, we uncover differences in outcome by European region that do not disappear over the decades we examine.


Ellis Island; IPUMS; assimilation theory; immigration; socioeconomic attainment

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