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The long-term economic impact of migration and its significance for US prosperity

von Berlepsch, Viola Konstanze Sitta Freiin (2018) The long-term economic impact of migration and its significance for US prosperity. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.v16gnek98nrg


Does past migration matter for economic development in the long-term? Does an area’s history in migration affect economic performance long after the initial migration shock has faded away? And – does it matter what type of immigrant settles in a territory for the economic impact of migration to persist in time? This dissertation examines the long-term economic impact of migration, connecting migrant settlement patterns at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century to present day levels of income per capita. It firstly estimates the effect of different compositional features of the historical migrant stock on long-term economic development levels in the United States (US), a country founded and essentially formed by migrants. Secondly, it tests whether there is a link between past European and recent Latin American migration to the US to identify whether one potential transmission mechanism could be at play in transferring the migrants’ economic impact across time. The results of the analyses conducted using a variety of methods – OLS, IV, and panel data estimation techniques – provide three novel insights. Firstly, historical migrant stock is one of the very few historical county features that still explain current levels of development. In contrast to other factors, such as past income and education levels or industry structure, the influence of past migration on economic development does not seem to fade over the very long-term. Secondly, compositional aspects related to the historical migrant stock remain highly decisive for economic development outcomes more than 100 years later. The diversity of the migrant population, the gender balance, as well as the average distance travelled by the migrant stock over a century earlier still influence regional economic development levels today. All three features have growth-enhancing implications over the short as well as over the long-term. Lastly, past migration – irrespective of the presence of family connections, ethnic ties, or migration networks – shapes the geographical patterns of successive migration waves spanning multiple decades and even generations. An area’s migration history acts as a crucial pull factor for future migrants and is at the root of the formation of migration-prone and migration-averse regions. Consequently, previous migration contributes to ‘rework’ the places of destination, making them more attractive for future generations of migrants. All in all, the findings show that migration not only matters for economic development, but that its economic influence determines the success and prosperity of territories and the well-being of their inhabitants over the very long-term.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Viola Konstanze Sitta Freiin von Berlepsch
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés and Lee, Neil

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