Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Revisiting the Bracero Guest Worker Reforms: A Comment on Clemens, Lewis, and Postel

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Abstract

Michael A. Clemens, Ethan G. Lewis, and Hannah M. Postel (2018) report results of an analysis of the effect of ending the bracero guest worker program on domestic, farm workers’ wages and employment. The authors (CLP) conclude that the ending of the bracero program had little effect on wages and employment of domestic farm workers. I review the CLP analysis focusing on the quality of the data and how those data were used to obtain estimates of the effect of the bracero program. My review suggests that significant data problems make it unlikely that the analysis would be able to identify reliably a labor market effect of ending the bracero program. The authors’ conclusion that ending the bracero program had no effect on the farm wages and employment of domestic workers should be regarded as tentative at best.

Response to this article by Michael A. Clemens, Ethan G. Lewis, and Hannah M. Postel: Comment on Kaestner, “Revisiting the Bracero Guest Worker Reforms” (EJW, March 2020).