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Displacement, Diversity, and Mobility: Career Impacts of Japanese American Internment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 December 2021

Jaime Arellano-Bover*
University of Rome Tor Vergata, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), and IZA, Via Sallustiana, 62, 00187 Roma, Italy. E-mail:


In 1942 more than 110,000 persons of Japanese origin living on the U.S. West Coast were forcibly sent away to ten internment camps for one to three years. This paper studies how internees’ careers were affected in the long run. Combining Census data, camp records, and survey data, I develop a predictor of a person’s internment status based on Census observables. Using a difference-in-differences framework, I find that internment had long-run positive effects on earnings. The evidence is consistent with mechanisms related to increased mobility due to re-optimization of occupation and location choices, possibly facilitated by camps’ high economic diversity.

© The Economic History Association 2021

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An earlier version of this paper was the second chapter of my dissertation at Stanford University; I thank Ran Abramitzky, Caroline M. Hoxby, Luigi Pistaferri, and Isaac Sorkin for their thoughtful advice. Manuel Arellano, Barbara Biasi, Leah Boustan, Liran Einav, Joseph Ferrie, Nate Hilger, Gordon Leslie, Guido Martirena, Kris James Mitchener, Petra Moser, Santiago Pérez, Nicola Pierri, Caio Waisman, and seminar participants at various institutions and conferences have provided very useful comments that have enriched this paper. I am also grateful for suggestions by the editor Eric Hilt, and two anonymous referees. This project benefited from the support of a Shultz Graduate Student Fellowship in Economic Policy through a grant to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, as well as a Summer Research Fellowship from the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at Stanford Law School. Their financial support is gratefully acknowledged.


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