Debunking Immigration Myths: A Review Essay of Streets of Gold: America's Untold Story of Immigrant Success
Journal of Economic Literature (Forthcoming)
This essay reviews Streets of Gold: America’s Untold Story of Immigrant Success by Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan. This elegantly written book, highly accessible to both economists and non-economists, is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic of immigration. Streets of Gold is a tour-de-force that walks the reader through the history of US immigration, examining patterns of immigrant economic, social, and cultural assimilation from the mid-nineteenth century to today. Using rigorous empirical methods and novel datasets assembled by the authors over more than 15 years of work, the book challenges two widespread but incorrect myths about US immigration. First, it shows that historical European immigrants did not always arrive poor and quickly climb the economic and social ladder. Second, it documents that the pace of immigrant assimilation today resembles that prevailing at the turn of the twentieth century. The book also provides evidence that immigrants’ success—both today and in the past—does not displace natives, and that immigrants spur economic growth.