EMIGRATIONdimensions and character of european emigration
emigration to the new world: "old" versus "new" immigrants
International migration was a major feature of the history of Europe in the long nineteenth century. More than 50 million people left Europe for overseas destinations and another 10 million left European Russia for Siberia. Similar numbers left other continents. The effect of this movement was a major redistribution of the European population. In 1815, for example, only about 4 percent of people of European origin lived outside Europe (or Siberia). By 1914, that number had
|European emigration, 1830–1914|
|Countries of origin (1914 boundaries)||Number (in millions)|
|SOURCE: Baines, Emigration from Europe, p. 3, adapted from Wilcox and Ferenczi, International Migrations, pp. 230–231.|
|The small amount of emigration before 1830 was rarely recorded.|
increased to 21 percent, and it continued to rise through the next century. There were also as many emigrants from the rest of the world, and in some respects emigration rates in this period were higher than those of the early twenty-first century. For example, in 1914 a larger proportion of the world's population lived in a different country than the one in which they were born than is the case in 2005. (This is partly because of the growth of restrictions.)
There are many reasons why emigrants left Europe. Some of these—for example, German sects or British Mormons—left because of religious persecution and often established religious communities in the New World. Some left to escape military service, for example in the Austro-Hungarian army. Some—for example, Jews in Russian Poland—left to escape deadly persecution. Some were resettled by landlords anxious to develop their land, as in the case of the Scottish Highlanders. Some were transported criminals, especially to Australia. And finally, some left to escape famine, of which the Irish Potato Famine of 1846–1848 was by far the most important.
The main reason, however, why international migration was so high was economic—what is now called globalization. Emigration rates were relatively low in the early nineteenth century but increased in the second half as transport costs fell and as international trade and capital mobility increased. The key effect of globalization on emigration was that it linked Europe with economies that were resource abundant and labor scarce. Earnings in these countries were much higher than in Europe, which, in comparison, was labor
|European emigration, 1830–1914|
|Destination countries||Number (in millions)|
|SOURCE: Baines, Emigration from Europe, p. 2, adapted from Wilcox and Ferenczi, International Migrations, pp. 230–231; Mitchell, European Historical Statistics, pp. 139–147.|
|The discrepancy between numbers for individual countries and the total is due to variations in the definition of "immigrants" in the available data.|
abundant and resource scarce. Hence both labor (emigrants) and capital (investment) flowed to the so-called regions of recent settlement—the United States, Canada, Australia, and Argentina.
There are some data problems, particularly those concerning the definition of "emigrant," but the main dimensions of European emigration are clear. Table 1 shows that about 52 million people left Europe for overseas destinations between 1830, when sufficient data are available, and 1914. More than half of these emigrants came from only three countries: 22 percent (11.5 million) from Britain, 19 percent (10 million) from Italy, and 13 percent (7 million) from Ireland.
The emigrants went to a relatively limited number of destinations. Table 2 shows that virtually all the European emigrants went to only five countries: 61 percent (33 million) to the United States; nearly 10 percent (5 million) went to each of Canada, Argentina, and Brazil; and 7 percent (4 million) went to Australia. Only a tiny number of European emigrants went to the nonwhite colonies.
Finally, table 3 shows which European countries produced proportionately the greatest number of emigrants. It is based on the mean emigration rates of the highest four decades. This is a little arbitrary because the eastern European countries had very high emigration rates but only at the end of the period, when emigration was curtailed by World War I. Table 3 shows that Ireland had the highest emigration rate, followed by Norway, Italy, Britain, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal. The Netherlands, Belgium, and France had very low emigration rates.
Why was emigration low from many poor countries and high from several rich countries? This is best explained by considering the way an emigration stream developed. Most emigration was governed by the economic benefits of migration and the costs of achieving them. Initially, most people were too poor to emigrate. The cost of travel and the income forgone before they found employment in another country was too high. Moreover, by definition, there were few previous emigrants to help them. (This is why the Finnish famine of 1816 led to little emigration compared with the Irish famine thirty years later.) But as the European economies grew, potential emigrants were richer; transport became cheaper, and crucially, information became more abundant. (Because growth was related to urbanization, one consequence was that more emigrants came from urban areas.) Unsurprisingly, European emigration spread from west to east. In the early nineteenth century, Britain and Ireland experienced large-scale emigration. Emigration then spread to Germany (i.e., the German states), Scandinavia, and Italy. By the early twentieth century it had spread to Hungary, Poland, and the Balkans. There was a relationship between the onset of large-scale emigration and the extent to which an economy was integrated into the international economy. (This was not a sufficient condition, however. Several developed western European countries had little emigration.)
The majority of emigrants traveled individually or as part of a family. Group emigration was largely confined to the early years. And relatively few traveled with a subsidy. Hence a decision to emigrate may be characterized as an individual (or family) decision that compares future income (widely defined) if he or she stayed at home with future income if he or she migrated, taking account of the costs of moving. Annual emigration rates from several countries have been related to economic variables (such as employment and wage differences), which confirm that economic motives dominated the decision to emigrate.
The "relative income" explanation has to be modified in two important respects. The first is that
it does not account for the very large fluctuations in annual emigration rates. Obviously the long-run benefits of emigration were much the same if an emigrant decided to leave in one year rather than another. But annual emigration rates could fluctuate by plus- or minus-50 percent—in other words, much more than could be predicted by differences in the emigrant's expected lifetime income. This was mainly because emigrants could not afford to be out of the labor market for very long. The emigrant had to get to the port, find a passage, and crucially, find employment once he or she arrived. Overall this could take three months or even more when emigrants traveled by sail. If job prospects were poor, emigration would be too risky. An important observation follows: the fluctuations in annual emigration rates were common to all countries experiencing emigration at the time, and they conform to economic conditions in the destination countries. The key peaks were in 1854, 1873, 1883, 1907, and 1913. This means that information about economic conditions in the destination countries must have been available to most potential emigrants.
The second problem is that emigration rates from different European regions varied considerably. Emigration rates from the Italian regions of Calabria, the Abruzzi, and Sicily, for example, were eight to ten times those from Emilia-Romagna and Sardinia. Other famous emigration regions
include Cornwall (England), Berslagen (Norway), Galicia (Spain), Vaasa (Finland), and Galicia and the Bukovina (Austria-Hungary). A common explanation is path dependency. The fluctuations reveal that most potential emigrants must have been in possession of good-quality information. The two most important sources were emigrant letters to relatives and the experience of emigrants who had returned. Another important implication follows: in the main, the letter writers and the returned emigrants cannot have been emigrants who had "failed," since their experience would have had a negative influence on potential emigrants, which clearly it did not.
Remittances from earlier emigrants were helpful, although there is not enough data to say precisely how important these monies were. Remittances were used to help maintain family members left in Europe, thus creating communities that depended on emigration. Some were used to finance the emigration of family members, sometimes by sending prepaid tickets. Hence the cost of travel was often paid out of money that was earned overseas where wages were higher than in Europe.
Emigration from particular regions was partly path dependent. It is impossible to calculate precisely how far information and remittances determined the migration flow because it is impossible to measure the information flow independently of the emigration itself. Emigration in one year makes emigration in the following year easier. This means, of course, that those explanations of emigration rates that depend on the amount of information flowing back to Europe are essentially circular.
The character of European emigration underwent major changes in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. An increasing proportion of European emigrants came from southern and eastern Europe. At the same time, there was a marked increase in the rate of return. By the early twentieth century, 40 to 50 percent of Italian and 30 to 40 percent of Polish, Portuguese, and Hungarian emigrants were returning permanently to Europe. (The average for all countries for the whole period was 33 percent, mainly after 1870. It was only 10 percent before 1870.)
The increase in returns was largely because transport became cheaper, safer, and more comfortable. After the mid-1870s virtually all emigrants traveled by rail and steamship, and eventually it became possible to purchase through-tickets from inland Europe to New World destinations. Better transport changed the nature of the emigration decision. Because it became easier to return, the decision to leave became less final, reducing the psychological cost. Most important, cheaper transport made it possible to emigrate for a limited period. In other words, cheaper transport increased the number of "target earners," some of whom emigrated more than once.
This led to an important political issue, particularly in the United States. By the late nineteenth century the main source of immigrants had shifted from western and northern Europe, particularly Britain, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia, to southern and eastern Europe, particularly Italy, Russian Poland, Croatia, and Hungary. The former were called "old" immigrants and the latter "new" immigrants. A commission of the U.S. Senate (1907–1911) examined the differences between old and new and concluded that the latter had been of less economic value to the economy than the former. Based on this assessment, immigration in the 1920s from southern and eastern Europe was restricted far more than immigration from western and northern Europe. In effect, the argument was about assimilation. The old immigrants (described as "settlers") were likely to have arrived as part of a family group. Many had become farmers. The later new immigrants (described, pejoratively, as "labor migrants") were likely to have arrived as young single adults and were at least three times more likely to return to Europe than the earlier immigrants. U.S. society at the time was seen as a melting pot where all immigrants ultimately became homogeneous "Americans." (Some immigrants were invisible, however. For example, the British in the United States and Australia were not normally thought of as immigrants.) But the new immigrants, who were concentrated in ethnic ghettos, were very visible and less assimilated.
The differentiation between relatively desirable old and relatively undesirable new immigrants does not bear economic scrutiny. The contribution of the new immigrants reflected changes in the U.S. economy. When the old immigrants arrived in the first half of the century, return to Europe (by sailing ship) was difficult. Hence most emigrants were settlers. Moreover, cheap or even free land was available. By the later nineteenth century, western expansion was over. The demand for labor was in industry and urban services, which created an entry for a new kind of immigrant. In other words, labor migrants were exactly what the U.S. economy needed, although not everybody appreciated this at the time. The importance of assimilation was also misunderstood. For example, the ethnic ghetto was seen as an extension of Europe, which the immigrants had to leave before they could make a major contribution to the economy. In fact, it was a socially heterogeneous and economically vibrant community that was led by immigrant entrepreneurs.
In the main, the new immigrants were assumed to be unskilled and the old immigrants to have been skilled. The former is true but the latter is not. For example, most emigrants to the United States from Britain and Ireland were unskilled. Emigrants were usually a sample of the population. Hence a large proportion of British emigrants were unskilled (urban) workers, and a large proportion of Italian emigrants were peasants.
It has already been noted that emigration rates from southern and eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries were exceptionally high. This turns out not to be because southern and eastern Europeans were more prone to emigration than northerners but because they would emigrate even when the economic benefit was relatively low. It was simply that wages in southern and eastern Europe were so low and returns to emigration were so high. Real wages in Italy in 1870 were only 23 percent of those in the United States, for example, and the gap did not significantly narrow before 1914.
It is likely that the only way emigrants were systematically selected was with respect to their age. For example, it is frequently stated that emigrants were relatively more "enterprising" than nonmigrants. But this cannot be tested because, for example, the opportunity to become a successful entrepreneur in a resource-rich open economy, such as the United States in the nineteenth century, was particularly high. Hence the success of immigrant entrepreneurs does not tell us if the immigrants were the more "enterprising" people in the European populations from which they were drawn.
The effect of age selection was important, however. Emigrants were typically young adults because emigration involved an investment decision. The benefits were higher the longer the future lifetime. In addition, emigration took place at key moments in the life cycle—for example, when a young person decided to leave home. The point was that young adult immigrants were a free gift of capital. They entered the labor market at the peak of their earning power and when their education and upbringing had been borne by the European economy. Moreover, if they returned home, the immigrants reduced the dependent population. For example, 76 percent of the immigrants into the U.S. economy (1860–1910) were in the prime age groups (15–40), compared with only 36 percent of the American-born. This increased the proportion of young adults in the U.S. population from 36 percent to 42 percent.
The stylized facts about the effect of immigration on New World labor markets before World War I is that, on average, immigrant earnings were initially less than native, holding skills constant, but that they caught up with native earnings within a lifetime. One reason that immigrant earnings were initially lower was that immigrant qualifications were relatively undervalued. This included informal qualifications and, of course, ability in the native language.
In the fifty years before World War I there were few restrictions on the movement of capital, goods, and labor—that is, few restrictions as long as the immigrants were white. In the 1920s two Swedish economists, Eli Filip Heckscher and Bertil Ohlin, produced a simple formulation of the effect of European emigration. The New World had relatively abundant resources and relatively scarce labor, which is true by definition. Europe had the opposite. Hence labor flowed to the high-wage, labor-scarce economy. But this should also have meant that capital (overseas investment) flowed to the low-wage economy because investment was more profitable. The implication of the Heckscher-Ohlin model is that the gap between earnings in Europe and earnings in the immigration countries should have narrowed. Table 4 shows real earnings according to the main migration flows: the first line shows that British real earnings were 60 percent of U.S. real earnings in 1870 and 62 percent in 1910, the second that real earnings in Germany were 50 percent of U.S. real earnings in 1870 and 51 percent in 1910. In other words, despite forty years of heavy emigration, no wage convergence had occurred between Britain and the United States and Canada, nor between Germany and Italy and the United States. It is not surprising that high rates of emigration continued for such a long time.
The reason why the earnings gap did not fall was that both earnings and the returns on investment were higher in the New World. Capital and labor were moving in the same, not opposite, directions. This was partly because the cost of resources, particularly in the United States, was very low compared with that in Europe. Access to raw materials was a major factor in production costs at the time, in contrast to the early twenty-first century when transport costs are much lower.
Most important, the United States had developed resource-intensive technologies (in steel and chemicals, for example) that could not be transferred to Europe. Hence the profitability of investment remained higher in the United States than in Europe. (Further, the United States had developed the management techniques to operate these large-scale "business corporations.") Real wages in the United States and other destinations remained higher than in Europe. Rather than falling, emigration rates from Europe increased in the early twentieth century. They only fell because of World War I, which was followed by serious restrictions on European immigration into many countries and the collapse of the international economy, which confirms the connection between trade, capital movements, and emigration.
Baines, Dudley. Emigration from Europe, 1815–1930. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1995.
Bodnar, John E. The Transplanted: A History of Immigration in Urban America. Bloomington, Ind., 1985.
Hatton, Timothy J., and Jeffrey G. Williamson. The Age of Mass Migration: Causes and Economic Impact. New York, 1998.
Mitchell, B. R. European Historical Statistics, 1750–1975. 2nd rev. ed. London, 1980.
Wilcox, Walter F., and Imre Ferenczi. International Migrations. Edited on behalf of the National Bureau of Economic Research. New York, 1929.
EMIGRATION from the United States has received far less attention than the influx of immigrants attracted by the reputation of a country with a tradition of welcoming freedom-seekers from around the world. Yet there have been times when the number of emigrants surpassed that of immigrants.
Patterns of Emigration
Many nineteenth-century immigrants in the United States were male Europeans whose goal was to save the money they earned in order to return home, buy land, and improve their economic status. This goal, together with feelings of cultural dislocation, and frequent expressions of hostility on the part of native-born Americans, contributed to an exceptionally high incidence of repatriation. In the late 1800s, the departure rate for Croatians, Poles, Serbs, and Slovenes was 35 percent; for Greeks, 40 percent; and more than 50 percent for Hungarians, Slovaks, and Italians. From the 1830s to the 1920s, emigrants returning to their homelands reduced net immigration gains by 20 to 50 percent.
Since 1900, the ratio of immigration to emigration has been three to one: 30 million legal immigrants were admitted to the United States between 1900 and 1930, and 10 million emigrants left the country. A notable exception occurred during the Great Depression, from 1931 to 1940, when the emigrant flow swelled to 649,000, compared with 528,000 immigrants. Trustworthy statistics for the later twentieth century are harder to find. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) stopped collecting emigrant data in 1957, and the U.S. Census Bureau no longer tallies the number of U.S. citizens living abroad. In addition, Americans living in foreign countries are under no obligation to register with American consulates, and may be unknown to local immigration authorities. For example, while the U.S. Department of State estimated that more than 500,000 U.S. citizens lived in Mexico in 2000, the Instituto Nacional de Inmigracion reported only 124,082.
Estimates of the total number of U.S. citizens living abroad at the turn of the twenty-first century range from 3.2 million to more than 6 million. According to the United Nations Demographic Yearbook (1989), the top ten countries to which people emigrated from the United States in the 1980s, in descending order, were: Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, Guatemala, Indonesia, Australia, and Italy. Mexico also attracted the largest group of American émigrés from 1965 to 1976, displacing Germany, formerly the primary destination of Americans settling abroad
On an annual basis, it is estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 Americans are moving out of the country. The majority are believed to be former immigrants, although as many as 100,000 may be native-born. Yet the rate of repatriation has slowed significantly (15 percent in the 1990s, versus more than 37 percent in the first decade of the twentieth century). Other factors that make it difficult to quantify recent emigration include potentially large numbers of undocumented immigrants who return to their home countries.
Cultural, Economic, and Political Reasons for Emigration
The first emigrants were some 80,000 to 100,000 Loyalists, supporters of Great Britain during the American Revolution who returned to their home country, including the painter John Singleton Copley. It was not until the Vietnam War that significant numbers of Americans again left the country for political reasons—in this case, to evade the military draft. Canada was the favored destination for Americans of draft age, whose numbers are said to have peaked in the early 1970s. But because many draft evaders did not immediately apply for landed emigrant status in Canada, there are no reliable statistics on the scope of this phenomenon. While the Canadian government reported a total of 24,424 immigrants from the United States in 1970, and 24,366 in 1971, estimates of the number of draft evaders who went to Canada during this period have varied wildly, from more than 50,000 to more than 100,000.
In 1816, the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color in the United States, founded by the Reverend Robert Finley and other well-connected and well-meaning white men, sought to offer better opportunities to freed slaves, relieve racial tension in the United States, and encourage the liberation of more slaves. In 1822 the first group of freed slaves arrived in the settlement of Monrovia (named for President James Monroe), on Africa's west coast. Liberia, with Monrovia as its capital, became an independent republic in 1847. By 1870, it had attracted some 13,000 U.S. immigrants. The best-known back-to-Africa movement was led in the 1920s by Jamaican-born, New York-based Marcus Moziah Garvey, who founded the Black Star Line steamship company to transport black Americans to Africa (see Black Nationalism).
From the 1940s through the 1960s, individual African Americans weary of the struggle against racism in the United States—including prominent figures in the arts, such as the novelist James Baldwin—found havens in European cities where their color was no bar to acceptance. Popular destinations included Paris, Rome, Berlin, and Stockholm. Since the eighteenth century, Europe—particularly France, Italy, and England—has been a favored destination of American writers and artists, who initially sought training unavailable in the United States. The roster of pre-twentieth-century cultural expatriates includes painters Benjamin West and Mary Cassat, and novelists Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James. By the 1920s—the most celebrated era of U.S. cultural expatriates—the roster included novelists Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Katherine Anne Porter (who settled in Mexico); poets Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot; and art patron Gertrude Stein.
In the early 1950s—after the passage of the McCarran Internal Security and McCarran-Walter Acts, which denied suspected "subversives" the right to apply for or renew passports and permitted deportation of naturalized citizens suspected of subversive allegiances—some Americans found a haven in Mexico. With no passport requirements for U.S. citizens, cheaper living costs, and a tradition for giving asylum to fugitives, Mexico was a popular destination for Communist Party members and sympathizers, people jailed after participation in industrial strikes, and those who refused to sign loyalty oaths.
Since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, more than 100,000 American Jews have emigrated there, an event known as "making aliyah." This phenomenon peaked in 1991, despite the Gulf War. Under the Law of Return established by the Israeli Knesset (parliament) in 1950 and modified in 1970, anyone born of a Jewish mother, as well as that person's spouse and children, and the spouses of their children and grandchildren (whether Jewish or not) is entitled to Israeli citizenship and residency. It has been estimated that 10 to 15 percent of these emigrants eventually return to the United States, though some move back to Israel.
Some foreign-born emigrants from developing countries, after having obtained advanced degrees from U.S. universities, return to their home countries to lend their expertise to businesses or governments. American émigrés settle overseas to work for multinational corporations and government agencies, to reconnect with their heritage, or to take advantage of tax havens. In recent years, globalization, the fall of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the postwar economy of Vietnam have increased opportunities for American entrepreneurs overseas.
Americans who renounce their citizenship without acquiring citizen status in another country are considered to be stateless. Combining the intent to abandon citizenship with an act of treason, a formal renunciation before a consular officer, an oath of allegiance to another country, service in another country's military, or becoming a naturalized citizen of another country are legal grounds for being judged to have voluntarily relinquished U.S. citizenship.
Anhalt, Diana. A Gathering of Fugitives: American Political Expatriates in Mexico, 1948–1965. Santa Maria, Calif.: Archer Books, 2001.
Dunbar, Ernest. The Black Expatriates: A Study of American Negroes in Exile. New York: Dutton, 1968.
Earnest, Ernest. Expatriates and Patriots: American Artists, Scholars, and Writers in Europe. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1968.
Ross, Ishbel. The Expatriates. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1970.
Warren, Bob. "The Elusive Exodus: Emigration from the United States." Population Trends and Public Policy, no. 8 (March 1985).
In the British Isles the first of the relatively large-scale emigrations occurred with the opening up of the New World in the late 16th and 17th cents. Many of those who looked for greater political and religious freedom chose to emigrate. The puritans who sailed to North America on the Mayflower in 1620 sought the opportunity to practise their religion without interference. Sometimes the emigrants had considerable influence. The quaker William Penn persuaded Charles II to grant a charter to the colony, later called Pennsylvania, to provide specifically for freedom of worship and expression. At this time the government also wished to populate and provide workers in the expanding overseas colonies in the West Indies. Initially, emigrants were convicted criminals who worked in the sugar, tobacco, and cotton plantations. Similarly during the 18th cent. the demand for cheap labour in Australia stimulated the government to transport convicts from the 1790s until the 1850s. Convicts, freed after completing their sentences, often preferred to remain and make their lives in the colonies.
Individuals also left Britain voluntarily to seek better opportunities overseas. During the 18th cent., Scottish emigrants took service in the Russian army and settlers from all over the British Isles moved to the American colonies (later the USA and Canada) to take up work in agriculture, commerce, and trade in natural resources such as furs and timber. Among the more prosperous manufactures was shipbuilding in New England for the European market.
During the 19th cent. emigration was on a scale hitherto unknown. The port of Liverpool became the most important departure place for all emigrants and 15 million persons (from the British Isles and northern Europe) were recorded as having left through that port between 1815 and 1914.
Two of the best-documented emigrations were those caused by hardship. In the early 19th cent. the clearances of the Scottish Highlands forced people off the land and large numbers of Highlanders emigrated to Canada and Australia in search of new lives. In the 1840s the Irish potato famine reduced the population by almost half when large numbers settled elsewhere including Britain, the USA, and Australia.
Emigration to all parts of the British empire was encouraged by the government. Commentators such as Gibbon Wakefield in his book A Letter from Sydney argued that emigration was the solution to the dangers of overpopulation identified by Thomas Malthus. In addition, colonial governments, such as that of New South Wales, offered free or assisted passages to emigrants and advertised widely in British local newspapers. Encouragement to emigrate was reinforced by those who had settled earlier in the colonies. Not all British emigrants settled in British colonies. Argentina also had a policy of encouraging settlers and descendants of Welsh emigrants to Patagonia continue to keep alive Welsh culture there to this day.
In the 20th cent. emigration continued to the Commonwealth and to the USA, but at a slower rate. Work opportunities declined as a consequence of the world-wide economic depression, as well as the changing links between Britain and her former empire. After 1945 emigration opportunities were increasingly under the control of overseas governments wishing to select only those migrants who had relevant skills.
Ian John Ernest Keil
The act of moving from one country to another with intention not to return. It is to be distinguished from expatriation, which means theabandonmentof one's country and renunciation of one's citizenship in it, while emigration denotes merely the removal of person and property to another country. Expatriation is usually the consequence of emigration. Emigration is also sometimes used in reference to the removal from one section to another of the same country.