You ask how other group are able to achieve more than the American Negro

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Your Answer Japanese Economic Historian: Masao Suzuki and the Issei generation

Professor Masao Suzuki




Selective immigration and ethnic economic achievement: Japanese American before World War II

When the Japanese first began to emigrate to the continental United States inlarge numbers in 1900, their economic position was below that of other immi-grants and African Americans. But by 1940 Japanese immigrants had surpassedAfrican Americans and were on par with immigrants from Europe in terms oftheir occupational status.


Japanese immigrants to the continental United States with the Japanese population as a whole to show that Japanese immigrants were positively selected interms of the their education and occupational background. Then, using data froma census of Japanese Americans incarcerated into World War II concentrationcamps, I show that this selective immigration of Japanese was a major factor intheir upward mobility in the United States.


This article is motivated by the larger debate over differences in ethnic economic achievement, where Japanese Americans are often portrayed as“model minorities” whose success is due to their culture. An alternative view is that the selectivity in the processes of immigration, return migration, and family forma-tion, combined with intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic status, can explain the economic achievement of Japanese Americans relative to other racialminorities.2This article also follows recent historical work on racial and immi-grant economic achievement (Darity, Dietrich, and Guilkey, 1997; Hatton, 1997)and earlier work on occupational change among Japanese Americans (Yamato,1986).In addition to being an important subject in the debate over differences inethnic economic achievement, Japanese Americans also provide an opportunityto do an in-depth case study of the economic progress of immigrants. Whileefforts to gather data on immigrants tended to wane after its peak in thefirstdecade of the 20th century, Japanese immigrants were subjected to specialscrutiny by government agencies. While the motivation was discriminatory (theextreme case being the massive amounts of data gathered on Japanese Americansput into America’s concentration camps during World War II), its legacy is averitable gold mine of data for social science historians.3This article uses two measures of occupational position to examine theeconomic achievement of Japanese immigrants. Thefirst is the OCCSCORE

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