Lee Branstetter, Britta Glennon, J. Bradford Jensen, 20 August 2018

US firms have begun shifting R&D investment towards non-traditional destinations such as China, India, and Israel. The column argues that this is a response to a shortage in software and IT-related human capital within the US. When US multinationals are able to import talent or export R&D work, this reinforces US technological leadership. Conversely, politically engineered constraints on this response will undermine the competitiveness of US-based firms.

Morgan Kelly, Cormac Ó Gráda, 17 August 2018

Little is known about migration to cities in the era before railways. The column uses data on the origins of women arrested for prostitution in Paris in the 1760s, women registered as prostitutes in the 1830s and 1850s, men holding identity cards during the French Revolution, as well as everyone buried in 1833 to examine patterns of migration. Migration was highest from areas with high living standards, and the impact of distance fell as transport improved. Distance was a stronger deterrent to females than to males, consistent with more limited employment opportunities for women.

Christopher Parsons, Pierre-Louis Vézina, 14 August 2018

One of the largest refugee waves in recent history was that of the Vietnamese boat people. This column examines the long-run effect of the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees across the US on exports from the US to Vietnam. The first wave of refugees in 1975 was followed by a 20-year trade embargo on Vietnam. Following the lifting of sanctions, the share of US exports going to Vietnam was higher and more diversified in the states with larger Vietnamese populations. This evidence of the pro-trade effect of immigrants is a reminder that hosting refugees can represent an investment in the future.

Katherine Eriksson, Zach Ward, 06 August 2018

Those opposed to immigration often contend that immigrants are slow to assimilate. This column takes a longer-term view of assimilation by looking at the degree of ethnic spatial segregation in the US during and after the Age of Mass Migration. New methods and newly digitised data suggest that segregation in the US between 1850 and 1940 was both higher and more widespread than previously thought. However, despite slow rates of spatial assimilation, immigrants tend to assimilate culturally at a fast rate. 

Alberto Alesina, Armando Miano, Stefanie Stantcheva, 31 July 2018

The debate on immigration is often based on misperceptions about the number and character of immigrants. The column uses data from surveys in six countries to show that such misperceptions are striking and widespread. The column also describes how an experiment in which people were encouraged think about their perception of immigrants made them more averse to redistribution in general, suggesting that the focus on immigration in the political debate – without correcting the misperceptions respondents have about immigrants – could have the unintended consequence of reducing support for redistribution.

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