We consider whether key changes in U.S. immigration policy coincided with significant structural breaks in the levels of immigrant inflows. Tests are performed for the overall data and for cohorts of traditional source countries and non-traditional sources; for various geographic regions and sub-regions; and for specific countries. We find a large number of structural breaks that correspond with implementation of important legislative acts (e.g., Chinese Exclusion Act, Immigration Act of 1917, Hart-Celler Act, etc.), and many of the breaks coincide with statistically significant changes in the average levels of immigrant inflows during the periods prior to and following the respective policy change. Thus, the empirical evidence strongly supports the notion that immigration policy significantly affects the levels of immigrant arrivals, and gives credence to the assertion that U.S. immigration policy has shaped the demographic composition of America’s population and, by doing so, has likely shaped the nation’s culture.
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