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Immigration Policy and the Shaping of U.S. Culture

Becoming America

Roger White

The author examines the relationships between immigration policy, observed immigration patterns, and cultural differences between the United States and immigrants’ source countries. The entirety of U.S. immigration history (1607-present) is reviewed through a recounting of related legislative acts and by examining data on immigrant inflows and cross-societal cultural distances.
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Chapter 7: The effects of policy changes on immigration to the United States

Becoming America

Roger White

Extract

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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