Crossing Boundaries

Kevin Lewis

September 20, 2022

Freedom of Movement Restrictions Inhibit the Psychological Integration of Refugees
Hanno Hilbig & Sascha Riaz
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


How do freedom of movement restrictions affect refugee integration? While a growing body of research studies the initial spatial allocation of refugees, there is little causal evidence on subsequent policies that restrict residential mobility. We study a contentious law in Germany, which barred refugees from moving to a location different from the one they were exogenously assigned to. To identify the causal effect of the movement restriction on integration, we use a sharp date cutoff that governs whether refugees are affected by the policy. We demonstrate that restricting freedom of movement had pronounced negative effects on refugees’ sense of belonging in Germany while increasing identification with their home countries. In addition, the policy decreased engagement in a variety of social activities. Our findings suggest that discriminatory policies send a negative signal about the inclusiveness of the host society and thereby reduce the psychological integration of refugees.

Are economic arguments against immigration missing the boat? The fiscal effects of the Mariel Boatlift
Lili Yao, Brandon Bolen & Claudia Williamson
Southern Economic Journal, forthcoming


Opponents of migration argue that natives bear the fiscal costs of immigration. Estimates suggest the long-run fiscal effect of immigration for local governments is negative, largely due to the costs of educating immigrant children. We test whether migration affects local government fiscal outcomes using a synthetic control method and the 1980 Mariel Boatlift as a natural experiment. We find no effect of the mass influx of migrants to Miami on various fiscal outcome measures, suggesting concerns over the fiscal effects of immigration are “missing the boat.”

Understanding the Determinants of H-1B Decisions: A Machine Learning Approach
Urbashee Paul & Arthur Langlois
Northeastern University Working Paper, April 2022


This study aims to uncover, through an interpretable machine learning framework, the compositional shift in new employee H-1B applications that were approved before and after the 2017 “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order (EO), which caused an unprecedented surge in denial rates. Since the Trump administration did not explicitly specify any formal regulatory changes pertaining to the H-1B visa, it is unclear a priori which subgroup(s) of applicants were most affected or, perhaps, targeted by this EO. To better understand this, we generate Shapley Additive Explanation (SHAP) values from machine learning algorithms to measure the evolution in importance of application features over time. We learn that the main drivers of application outcomes shifted substantially after the EO: previously less-important features such as sponsoring firms’ characteristics (e.g., H-1B dependence), applicants’ occupation, their salary offer, country of origin, and education level became key determinants for H-1B approval after the EO. We also find evidence that the Trump administration may have been targeting Indian applicants solely based on nationality. Indian applicants, in particular, who worked as computer programmers at H-1B dependent firms, and did not hold a graduate degree faced a notably higher likelihood of H-1B visa rejection — despite having the same (or very similar) salary offers as other applicants.

Is Legal Status a Marker for Recidivism? Examining the Reoffending Patterns of Previously Incarcerated Immigrants

Javier Ramos & Kayla Alaniz
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming


Research shows that immigrants are less criminally involved than their native-born peers when examining a host of justice-related outcomes. Yet, this knowledge tells us little about whether the immigration-crime relationship varies when disaggregating the foreign-born into more distinct groups such as legal status. Using data from the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC), we address this gap in the literature by examining whether documented and undocumented ex-inmates differ in their probability to recidivate. We also consider whether these immigrant groups reoffend at a lower, higher, or similar level when compared to the native-born. Our findings reveal that there are no differences in reoffending between documented and undocumented ex-inmates, while both groups display a significantly lower probability to recidivate relative to natives.

Too Cold to Venture There? January Temperature and Immigrant Self-Employment Across the United States
Jun Lee & John Winters
Iowa State University Working Paper, December 2021


Immigrant entrepreneurs are critical to regional and national economies. Immigrants in the USA have higher self-employment rates than natives, and immigrants have made outsized contributions as founders of numerous highly successful firms. However, we document that immigrant self-employment rates vary considerably across areas of the USA. Our main measure is the percentage of immigrant workers in an area who are self-employed; i.e., the self- employment rate for the foreign-born. Areas with colder winter temperatures have especially low self-employment rates among their immigrant populations compared to other areas of the USA. This relationship holds for numerous sub-samples of immigrants and is not driven by any particular group. The relationship persists after controlling for numerous individual and local area characteristics. Immigrant entrepreneurs appear to be especially forward-looking and responsive to warmer January temperature as a locational amenity. The results have important implications about the location choices of immigrant entrepreneurs.

Diminished Advantage or Persistent Protection? A New Approach to Assess Immigrants' Mortality Advantages Over Time
Hui Zheng & Wei-hsin Yu
Demography, forthcoming


Much research has debated whether immigrants' health advantages over natives decline with their duration at destination. Most such research has relied on (pooled) cross-sectional data and used years since immigration as a proxy for the duration of residence, leading to the challenge of distilling the duration effect from the confounding cohort-of-arrival and age-of-arrival effects. Because longitudinal studies tend to use self-rated health as the outcome, the changes they observed may reflect shifts in immigrants' awareness of health problems. We illuminate the debate by examining how immigrants' mortality risk — a relatively unambiguous measure tied to poor health — changes over time compared to natives' mortality risk. Our analysis uses the National Health Interview Survey (1992–2009) with linked mortality data through 2011 (n = 875,306). We find a survival advantage for U.S. immigrants over the native-born that persisted or amplified during the 20-year period. Moreover, this advantage persisted for all immigrants, regardless of their race/ethnicity and gender or when they began their U.S. residence. This study provides unequivocal evidence that immigrant status' health protection as reflected in mortality is stable and long-lasting.


Group Ties amid Industrial Change: Historical Evidence from the Fossil Fuel Industry
Noah Zucker
World Politics, forthcoming


Coethnics often work in the same industries. How does this ethnic clustering affect individuals’ political loyalties amid industrial growth and decline? Focusing on migrant groups, the author contends that ethnic groups’ distribution across industries alters the political allegiances of their members. When a group is concentrated in a growing industry, economic optimism and resources flow between coethnics, bolstering migrants’ confidence in their economic security and dissuading investments in local political incorporation. When a group is concentrated in a declining industry, these gains dissipate, leading migrants to integrate into out-groups with greater access to political rents. Analyses of immigrants near US coal mines in the early twentieth century support this theory. The article shows how ethnic groups’ distribution across industries shapes the evolution of group cleavages and illuminates how decarbonizing transitions away from fossil fuels may reshape identity conflicts.



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