Immigration and Economic Opportunity

74 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2023 Last revised: 14 Nov 2023

See all articles by Yi-Ju Hung

Yi-Ju Hung

University of Southern California

Date Written: March 1, 2023


How immigration affects children of U.S.-born is ambiguous and understudied. Uncovering the impact helps us understand the dynamic responses to immigration and the implications for intergenerational mobility. To study the impact, I link children of U.S.-born in each of the 1900 to 1920 U.S. censuses to their adulthood years in the following censuses until 1940. I instrument immigration’s destination choice by exploiting the disparities of preexisting immigration settlement patterns and the variation in their arrivals from 1900 to 1920. I find that immigration induces U.S.-born children to accumulate more human capital. However, children of higher-skilled fathers adapt better and benefit more than their peers. The incentive to specialize may explain the skill upgrading; exposure to immigrants during childhood encourages children of U.S.-born to specialize in higher-skilled and less immigrant-intensive occupations. Mobility expands specialization opportunities. Immigration-induced rural-to-urban migration makes higher-skilled jobs more accessible for the U.S.-born. The findings indicate that though immigration induces skill upgrading, it increases U.S.-born cross-generation skill persistence.

Keywords: Immigration, Childhood exposure, Economic opportunity

JEL Classification: J24, J61, J62, N32

Suggested Citation

Hung, Yi-Ju, Immigration and Economic Opportunity (March 1, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Yi-Ju Hung (Contact Author)

University of Southern California ( email )

Los Angeles, CA
United States

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