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Immigration in Latin America Revisited Blanca Sánchez-Alonso Universidad San Pablo-CEU Madrid Valencia FRESH Meeting 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Immigration in Latin America Revisited Blanca Sánchez-Alonso Universidad San Pablo-CEU Madrid Valencia FRESH Meeting 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Immigration in Latin America Revisited Blanca Sánchez-Alonso Universidad San Pablo-CEU Madrid Valencia FRESH Meeting 2013

2 Some preliminary thoughts Research on immigration in Latin America is a comparatively neglected field in the literature constrained by a narrow conception of the “Atlantic Economy”. There are many over-simplifications of the Latin experience during the age of mass migration. The experiences of Latin American countries are not fully incorporated into current debates on the cost and benefits of migration.

3 Some preliminary thoughts Immigration history has been guilty of an “Anglo-Saxon bias”. Text books on economic growth in the long run or economic history in Latin America concentrate on trade and capital and devote only a few pages to the relationship of Latin American countries with the international labour markets. European migration to Latin America was substantial, amounting to over six million migrants to Argentina and Brazil between 1870 and 1910 (a higher number than to Australia and Canada).

4 Some preliminary thoughts

5 The consensus reached for the United States was that the mass immigration of Europeans had positive effects on the rate of growth of the American economy. Why such a consensus does not exist in the case of Latin America? Is it because of the lower number of European immigrants in the region or because it is assumed that the overall impact was not so positive?

6 Competing in the international labour market Latin America entered late in the age of mass migrations Latin American countries could not compete with the US International labour markets were segmented: national origins of immigrants to Latin America

7 Why Europeans went to Latin America? Real wage gaps. Data suggest that Latin American countries could not compete for labour by offering wages at levels offered in the United States. However, Brazil represents a puzzle for the traditional explanation of migration based on real wage gaps: wages in Brazil were only 50 per cent higher than average wage levels in the Mediterranean countries. Brazil had to compete for labour with Argentina and Cuba. Scarcity of labour in Brazil?

8 Why Europeans went to Latin America?

9 Quality of immigration. The consensus is that Latin America received poorer and potentially less productive immigrants than the United States. The dominant flow over the years came from the economically backward areas of Southern and Eastern Europe.

10 Quality of immigration. On average literacy rates were lower in Southern Europe than in the North Human capital contribution: lower than in the US The legacy of the Dillingham Commission No ethnicity gap among immigrants in Latin America

11 Argentina: Immigration Composition by Origin (Main Groups) (%)

12 Quality of immigration. Italy, Spain and Portugal were poor and backward nations compared to Great Britain or Germany in per capita income terms and literacy rates were lower But were Italian immigrants themselves poorer than Swedish or Irish immigrants? Were Northern Italians migrating to Argentina in the 1880s more backward and illiterate than the Irish travelling to USA in the 1860s?

13 Quality of immigration. Immigrants to Latin America had higher levels of literacy than native population Data show an illiteracy rate of 56 % for immigrants compared to 73 % for the native born population of Sao Paulo State in 1920 Emigrants’ levels of literacy were higher than the whole population at home: positive selection

14 Quality of immigration.

15 Impact of immigration in Latin America Immigrants’ occupations: being unskilled could be an advantage Did immigration add special skills or entrepreneurial capacities to the local labour force? Immigrants seem to have been over- represented among proprietors of industrial and commercial firms.

16 Impact of immigration in Latin America Going beyond immigrant’s in the labour market. Social capital: associated with good economic performance. Significant correlations between social capital variables, such as membership in organizations, and important economic outcomes. Since immigrants largely contributed to the creation of associations, clubs, mutual aid societies… it is worthwhile to see this associational growth in some Latin American countries in the light of the concept of social capital

17 No restrictive immigration policies as in Australia or the US: Why? The political economy of immigration policy in Argentina. Comparisons of immigration policies: Argentina and Brazil. Assisted immigration and failure to attract immigrant to other Latin American countries. The political economy of immigration policy

18 Immigration policy index (left scale) and the frontier in Argentina,

19 Immigration policy index (left scale) and annual number of strikes in Argentina,

20 Conclusions We need fresh thinking on immigration in Latin America There is scope for new research To consider migrants other than the Europeans should be the next step


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