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The Impact of Skill-Based Immigration Restrictions: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Joyce Chen ()

Journal of Human Capital, 2015, vol. 9, issue 3, 298 - 328

Abstract: This paper considers the impact of skill-based immigration restrictions, using the Chinese Exclusion Act as a natural experiment. I find that restrictions reduced the average occupational standing of Chinese immigrants, suggesting substitution between observed and unobserved skills. Conversely, children of restricted immigrants have greater human capital than those of unrestricted immigrants, despite restricted immigrants themselves having lower skill. This suggests particularly strong intergenerational transmission of skill among Chinese immigrants of the exclusion era. More generally, the findings indicate that the effects of skill-based restrictions are not always straightforward and may be heterogeneous across groups.

Date: 2015
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