During the Age of Mass Migration, the US maintained open borders and absorbed 30 million European immigrants. Using cross-sectional data, prior work on this era finds that immigrants held lower-paid occupations than natives upon first arrival but experienced rapid convergence. In newly-assembled panel data following immigrants over time, the initial immigrant earnings penalty disappears almost entirely, and immigrants experience occupational upgrading at the same rate as natives. Cross-sectional patterns are driven by declines over time in arrival cohort quality and the departure of negatively-selected return migrants. We show that these findings vary substantially across sending countries and explore potential mechanisms.
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