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 9: The Effects of Immigrants on Trade in Cultural and Non-Cultural Goods: Evidence from US State-Level Exports

Roger White and Bedassa Tadesse


Our examination of data for nine OECD member host countries explores the expected trade-inhibiting effect of cultural distance and the extent to which immigrants act to offset this effect. To consider the separate influences of the two dimensions of our measure of cultural distance on trade and, again, the role that immigrants may play in countering these effects, we have employed aggregate trade data for the US as the host country. Here, we examine the effects of immigrants and cultural distance on more disaggregate trade data: state-level exports of non-cultural products and of different types of cultural products. In this chapter, we specifically build on these findings and examine whether immigrants’ knowledge of home country markets and customs yields variation in the extent to which they influence their host state’s exports, particularly of products that embed culture, to their home countries. By doing so, we gain valuable insights into how immigrants affect trade and on the validity of the immigrant– trade link. As noted at the outset, our use of state-level export data is essential as failure to find an immigrant–export link using state-level data may call into question the findings of previous studies that employ aggregate national-level data (Dunlevy, 2006). Cultural products are goods and services that convey ideas, symbols and ways of life. Examples include books, magazines, multimedia products, software, recordings, films, videos, audiovisual programs, crafts and fashion design (Cano et al., 2000). While exports of cultural products comprise a minor share (roughly 2.4 percent) of total...

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