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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Effect of Internal Migration on Local Labor Markets: American Cities During the Great Depression


During the Great Depression, as today, migrants were accused of taking jobs and crowding relief rolls. At the time, protest concerned internal migrants rather than the foreign born. We investigate the effect of net migration on local labor markets, instrumenting for migrant flows to a destination with extreme weather events and variation in New Deal programs in typical sending areas. Migration had little effect on the hourly earnings of existing residents. Instead, migration prompted some residents to move away and others to lose weeks of work and/or access to relief jobs. Given the period?s high unemployment, these lost work opportunities were costly to existing residents.

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