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Ran Abramitzky

July 16th, 2019

"Intergenerational Mobility of Immigrants in the U.S. over Two Centuries"


We use millions of linked father-son pairs to test the “American Dream” view that even immigrants who arrive in the United States with few resources and skills have a real chance at improving their children’s prospects. Both in the past and today, children of immigrants were more likely to move up the income distribution, relative to the children of U.S.-born parents with comparable family income or occupation score. Despite dramatic changes in countries of origin and US migration policy, the advantage of children of immigrants in recent cohorts is of similar magnitude to the historical one. In the historical data, immigrant families were no more likely to invest in education but did move to areas that offered better prospects for their children. Higher mobility also reflected the fact that immigrant parents were “under-placed” in the income distribution, thus allowing their children more scope for upward mobility.