Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ann Carlos

Second Advisor

Brian Cadena

Third Advisor

Terra McKinnish

Fourth Advisor

Murat Iyigun

Fifth Advisor

Joseph Jupille


In this dissertation, I examine three important questions regarding how political institutions have shaped the course of economic development in the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, I examine how immigration policy altered who migrated to frontier regions in the Pacific Northwest, how western settlement and institutions affected indigenous peoples, and how these indigenous groups ultimately perform relative to other racial groups in the contemporary U.S. economy. I examine these questions empirically in three papers that span the course of the 20th century and utilize two new sources of hand-collected data. First, I examine whether the 1921 Emergency Immigration Act affected the skills of incoming migrants using ship manifest data from ports in the Pacific Northwest. Under the 1921 act, entry was restricted to 3% of the nationals who were in the U.S. according to the 1910 census. Differences-in-differences estimates reveal that the quota resulted in influxes of higher skilled migrants. Furthermore, the measured increase in skill is not solely due to changes in source country. Rather, the quota resulted in within-country changes in the selection of migrants. Second, I examine the federal reindeer program of 1891, which distributed reindeer to Native Alaskan households. It was the intention that reindeer herding would provide Native Alaskans with a dependable source of cash income and employment. Using hand-collected household-level data, I find that, while reindeer herding did not provide Native Alaskans with a significant source of income, but resulted in more self-sufficient households. In my final chapter, I the compare the relative economic success of Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians, and Native Indians, and examine how the economic performance of these groups has changed over time. To the extent that the unexplained portion of the wage gap can be attributed to discrimination, the results indicate that "discrimination" has increased over the last three decades.