Publications by Type: Conference Paper


For much of Canadian history, particularly during the critical era of mass migration that straddled the decades of the turn of the century, the government may have welcomed immigrants with an open hand, but that same hand was also forcefully pressing immigrants into a narrowly–defined geographic and economic corner. Indeed, what distinguishes Canadian immigration history during the first half of this century, and makes it so different from that of the United States, is the degree to which Canadian immigration policy and practice was predicated on the notion that the place for non–English speaking immigrants, foreigners as they were commonly called, and for their Canadian–born children and children's children through the generations was in the Canadian hinterland, engaged in farming and extractive labor.

This research examines how the expansion of education, and its changing role in labor markets, has shaped employment experiences of newly–arriving immigrants to American and Canadian cities over the period 1970 to 1990. Earlier expansion of education levels in the U.S., particularly in immigrant–intensive cities, lowered the relative employment success of its immigrants compared to those in Canada in the 1970s, while the more recent rapid expansion of education in Canada has reduced this cross–national difference and fostered convergence. Three potential aspects of these effects are examined: (i) higher native–born educational levels create or increase an immigrant skills gap, (ii) the impact on immigrants is magnified by the lower relevance (actual or perceived) of their credentials to employers? requirements, and (iii) associated shifts toward knowledge–based or professionalized occupations alters the credential validation processes in ways which disadvantage immigrants. These effects are conditional upon labor market institutions and processes. Data are drawn from U.S. and Canadian census microdata files for 1980/81 and 1990/91. The impact of educational change on immigrants is shown in inter–temporal decomposition analysis.

Western US agriculture is an industry that has shaped and been shaped by a peculiar labor policy: the most numerous seasonal workers were assumed to be outsiders who would not remain employed in the industry or live in the community in which they worked for more than 10 to 20 years. Instead of integration policy, the emphasis of farm employers was on how to find new workers willing to accommodate themselves to seasonal employment.

Census data for 1990/91 indicate that Australian and Canadian female immigrants appear to have higher levels of English fluency, education, and income (relative to natives) than do U.S. female immigrants. This skill deficit for U.S. female immigrants arises in large part because the United States receives a much larger share of immigrants from Latin America than do the other two countries. However, even among women originating outside Latin America, the proportion of foreign–born women in the United States who are fluent in English is much lower than among foreign–born women in Australia. Furthermore, immigrant/native education gaps are reduced but not eliminated by the exclusion of Latin American women from the analysis. In contrast, other evidence for men suggests that the gap in observed skills among male immigrants to the United States is completely eliminated when Latin American immigrants are excluded from the estimation sample (Borjas, 1993; Antecol, et al., 2001). The importance of national origin and the general consistency in the results for men (who are routinely subjected to the selection criteria of various immigration programs) and women (who are not) suggests that many factors other than immigration policy per se are at work in producing skill variation among these three immigration streams.

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In this paper I argue that there is a significant isomorphism between a host country?s political system and newcomers? participation. During the "first wave" of mass migration to North America from 1880 to 1920 some immigrants brought radical new ideas, significantly influencing worker and socialist movements. The influence of "second wave" immigrants appears more subtle, a careful jockeying for space within existing political structures. I suggest that political institutions exert a selection effect on potential immigrant community leaders both before and after migration. These selection processes reinforce prevailing political discourses and ways of participating.

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Alesina, Alberto. 2001. “What Does the European Union Do?”. Abstract

We construct a set of indicators to measure the policy–making role of the European Union (European Council, Parliament, Commission, Court of Justice, etc.), in a selected number of policy domains. Our goal is to examine the division of prerogatives between European institutions and national ones, in light of the implications of normative models and in relation to the preferences of European citizens. Our data confirm that the extent and the intensity of policy–making by the EU have increased sharply over the last 30 years. Such increase has taken place at different speeds, and to different degrees, across policy domains. In recent times the areas that have expanded most are the most remote from the EEC's original mission of establishing a free market zone with common external trade policy. We conjecture that the resulting allocation may be partly inconsistent with normative criteria concerning the assignment of policies at different government levels, as laid out in the theoretical literature.



The contemporary study of immigration has come a long a way — or at least so it seems to someone whose interests in the subject were first sparked in that prehistoric era we call the late 1970s. Others already knew better, but at the time it wasn't clear to me that there was a field to master, nor a subject that would live for long. Immigration had long since disappeared from the scholarly radar screen, and though it was quietly undergoing a renaissance, its rebirth was hard for this, admittedly obtuse, graduate student to discern. The older literature appeared truly antique. Yes, there was a relevant body of scholarship dating from the 1960s, but this seemed dated, and in any case, reeked of a melioristic liberalism so hopelessly passe that one couldn't take it seriously. It was also easy to succumb to the political correctness of the time: the authors of Beyond the Melting Pot were then at the height of their neo–conservative phase, making theirs the type of book one read only after having wrapped it in a brown, paper cover.


This paper investigates the political determinants of government decisions that benefit special interests, and specifically government decisions to deal with banking crises. I find that governments make smaller fiscal transfers to the financial sector and are less likely to exercise forbearance in dealing with insolvent financial institutions the more informed are voters, the closer are elections, and the larger the number of political veto players (conditional on the costs to voters of these policy decisions). The results suggest that policies that might be appropriate in the U.S. context for mitigating the magnitude of banking crises may be less efficacious in settings with other institutional arrangements.

Robinson, James A. 1996. “Rent Appropriation and Sustained Growth”. Abstract

This paper demonstrates that the introduction of imperfect competition into the labor market can solve the problem isolated by Jones and Manuelli (Journal of Economic Theory, 1992, 58, 171–197), and Boldrin (Journal of Economic Theory, 1992, 58, 198–218), that in economies with convex technologies and finitely lived agents, real wages may not grow fast enough for unbounded growth to be sustained. I show that if wages are determined by a bargaining solution, and if the bargaining power of the workforce is sufficiently high (if they appropriate a sufficiently large proportion of rents), then growth is unbounded. Moreover, the growth path generated by such an economy may improve the welfare of all generation apart from the initial old.