Immigrantion and Industrialization

Immigrantion and Industrialization

Immigrants and Industrialization in the United States, 1880 to 1920

Charles Hirschman and Liz Mogford Department of Sociology and Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology University of Washington Seattle, WA 98195-3340 November 16, 2006

Revised version of a poster presentation at the 2006 meetings of the Population Association of America at Los Angeles. Contact Charles Hirschman at and Liz Mogford at



In this study, we address the theoretical and empirical debate over the impact of mass immigration on industrialization in the United States from 1880 to 1920. In particular, we measure the contribution of immigrants and their descendants to the growth and industrial transformation of the American workforce. The initial description compares the immigrant (both first and second generation) share of each industrial sector in 1880 and 1920 and then measures the immigrant share of the growth of each sector from 1880 to 1920. These methods underestimate the role of immigration, since the grandchildren of immigrants are absorbed into the long resident population. This is particularly salient since immigrants and their children constituted one-third of the American workforce in 1880 and were concentrated in cities. Through an application of shift share analysis (akin to indirect standardization), we estimate employment by industrial sector in 1920 of the 3rd generation immigrants (the grandchildren of immigrants) separately from the 4th and higher generation. The addition of the 3rd generation to the 1st and 2nd generation immigrants in 1920 shows that almost 7 of 10 manufacturing workers were of recent immigrant stock. The long resident native born white population was overrepresented in agriculture, good jobs in the public and business services, and in migration streams to the West. The slowdown and eventual closing of the door to European immigration in the 1920s created a huge demand for...

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