Immigration and the Canadian Earnings Distribution in the First Half of the Twentieth Century
Green, Alan G.;
Green, David A.
We use newly available micro data samples from the 1911, 1921, 1931 and 1941 Canadian
Censuses to investigate the impact of immigration on the Canadian earnings distribution in the
rst half of the 20th Century. We show that earnings inequality increased dramatically between
1911 and 1941, with most of the change occurring in the 1920s. This coincided with two of
largest immigration decades in Canadian history (the 1910s and 1920s) and then the smallest
immigration decade (1930s). We nd, however, that immigration was not a prime cause of the
increase in inequality in these years. The relative lack of eect arose for three reasons. 1) in the
laissez-faire immigration policy before WWI, immigrants self-selected to have an occupational
distribution that was similar to that of the native born; 2) in the 1920s, when immigration
policy brought in a large number of farm labourers, immigrants adjusted geographically and
occupationally after arrival to again end up with an occupational distribution similar to that of
the native born; 3) general equilibrium adjustments in the economy helped mitigate the eects
of occupation-specic immigrant supply shocks.