International Migration and Economic Integration
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International Migration and Economic Integration

Understanding the Immigrant–Trade Link

Roger White and Bedassa Tadesse

This essential volume examines the influence of immigrants on the process of international economic integration – specifically, their influences on bilateral and multilateral trade flows. It extends beyond the identification and explanation of the immigrant–trade link and offers a more expansive treatment of the subject matter, making it the most comprehensive volume of its kind. The authors present abundant evidence that confirms the positive influences of immigrants on trade between their home and host countries; however the immigrant–trade link may not be universal. The operability of the link is found to depend on a variety of factors related to immigrants’ home countries, their host countries, the types of goods and services being traded and the anthropogenic characteristics of the immigrants themselves.
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Chapter 8: Heterogeneity Across Immigrant Groups: The Effects of Refugee and Non-Refugee Immigrants on US Trade

Roger White and Bedassa Tadesse


Consistent with the findings of prior studies, the results presented in earlier chapters confirm a pro-trade influence of immigrants, reveal considerable variation in these effects across product types and host and home country characteristics, and indicate that these influences fully or partially offset the negative effects of cultural differences on trade flows. Given that the effects of immigrants on trade are found to be somewhat sensitive to the cultural, institutional and economic differences between their host and home countries and to the product categories and measures of trade considered raises the question of whether the extent to which immigrants influence trade between their home and host countries is sensitive to immigrants’ anthropogenic characteristics. To address this question, we employ data for the US and 59 trading partners that span the years 1996–2001 in order to contrast immigrant– trade links for two broad, yet distinct, immigrant categories: immigrants admitted as refugees and asylum-seekers (hereafter generalized as ‘refugees’) and immigrants admitted under the guise of filling labor market vacancies, diversity promotion and family reunification, etc (hereafter ‘non-refugees’).1 The passage of several pieces of legislation – most notably, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 – transformed the basis for immigrant entry by granting priority based on family reunification, filling vacancies in the labor market and permitting entrance of refugees and asylum-seekers. This altered the demographic composition of subsequent immigrant inflows.2 Refugees, as set forth in the Act, are immigrants who are unable or unwilling to return to their home countries due to...

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