Skill Selection and American Immigration Policy in the Interwar Period

Jan 2018 | 161

Authors: Alexander A. J. Wulfers


The Age of Mass Migration came to an end in the interwar period with new American immigration restrictions, but did this end affect some potential migrants more than others? I use previously unanalysed data from passenger lists of ships leaving Bremen, one of the major European ports of emigration, between 1920 and 1933, to identify occupations and skill levels of individual migrants. The main focus of the paper is on the role that policy played in influencing the selection of migrants. I study the American quota laws of 1921, 1924, and 1929, and find that increasingly strict quotas led to an increase in the skill level of migrants as well as a shift from agricultural to manufacturing workers first, and from manufacturing to professional workers later.

JEL Codes: J15, K37, N32, N34

Keywords: immigration policy, skill selection, quotas, United States, Bremen, interwar period

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