29 January 2020

Famine Irish immigrants had a tough time in the US

An article in the Sunday Times Catholic surname ‘hindered sons of Famine refugees'  reports on a study by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  On average, the sons of Famine-era Irish immigrants fared less well than similar data of German and British immigrants and American-born men.

The Sunday Times article is behind a paywall but appears to be the same study as reported in a February 2019 article The Economic Assimilation of Irish Famine Migrants to the United States by William J. Collins and Ariell Zimran.

"We find evidence of a decline in human capital, defined as the skills, knowledge, and experience possessed by an individual or population, viewed in terms of their value or cost to an organization or country, among the famine-era Irish immigrants relative to previous Irish migrants and relative to other immigrant and native groups. As a result of this deteriorating selection, the migrants’ poor labour market outcomes, and the backlash against Irish immigrants, the children of the famine Irish faced long odds. But as adults, they significantly narrowed the gap in occupational status relative to natives in comparison to their fathers’ starting point, and they nearly kept pace with sons of US natives whose fathers were similarly situated in 1850. In this sense, there is strong evidence of economic assimilation by the famine Irish. This is the paper’s main finding. Among the children of the famine-era Irish immigrants, conditional on observables in 1850, we find differences in occupational outcomes depending on the Catholicity of their surname; we also find that children born in Ireland, even those who spent nearly their entire life in the US, fared worse than those born in the US, potentially reflecting exposure to famine conditions."

Is there a similar study for immigrants to Canada?

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