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- PublicationImmigrants and Savers: A Rich New Database on the Irish in 1850s New YorkWe describe a new dataset created from the first 18,000 savings accounts opened (from 1850 to 1858) at the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank in New York City. The bank was founded by Irish Americans and most of its depositors in its first decade of operations were recent Irish immigrants. The data offer a unique window on both savings behavior by the poor and not-so-poor in antebellum New York and on how emigrants who came primarily from rural parts of Ireland adapted to urban life. They also contain much that is new on the regional origins of mid-nineteenth century Irish immigrants and on their settlement patterns in New York.
- Publication"The Best Country in the World": The Surprising Social Mobility of New York’s Irish Famine ImmigrantsWe use databases we have created from the records of New York’s Emigrant Savings Bank, founded by pre-Famine Irish immigrants and their children to serve Famine era immigrants, to study the social mobility of bank customers and, by extension, Irish immigrants more generally. We infer that New York’s Famine Irish had a greater range of employment opportunities open to them than perhaps commonly acknowledged, and that the majority were eventually able to move a rung or two up the American socio-economic ladder, supporting the conviction of many Famine immigrants that the U.S. was indeed “the best country in the world.”
- PublicationGaming the System: The Not-So-Poor and Savings Banks in Antebellum New YorkSavings banks owe their origin to an early nineteenth century campaign to teach the poor thrift and thereby avoid poverty in old age. As an institution they grew and thrived in the following decades, but whether they achieved their objective remains moot. Most account-holders did not accumulate nest eggs in the prescribed manner, and many were not even poor. This paper exploits the rich archives of one New York savings bank to illustrate these points.
- PublicationThe Problem of False Positives in Automated Census Linking: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century New York's Irish ImmigrantsAutomated census linkage algorithms have become popular for generating longitudinal data on social mobility, especially for immigrants and their children. But what if these algorithms are particularly bad at tracking immigrants? Using nineteenth-century Irish immigrants as a test case, we examine the most popular of these algorithms—that created by Abramitzky, Boustan, Eriksson (ABE), and their collaborators. Our findings raise serious questions about the quality of automated census links. False positives range from about one-third to one-half of all links depending on the ABE variant used. These bad links lead to sizeable estimation errors when measuring Irish immigrant social mobility.