, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 343–376 | Cite as

A city of trades: Spanish and Italian immigrants in late-nineteenth-century Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • Leticia Arroyo Abad
  • Blanca Sánchez-AlonsoEmail author
Original Paper


The city of Buenos Aires in the 1890s is an extreme case in immigration history since the native workers accounted for less than one-third of the labour force. In this paper, we look at the labour market performance of Argentineans vis-à-vis the largest two immigrant groups, Italians and the Spaniards. We find that, on average, Argentineans enjoyed higher wages, but workers specialised in particular occupations by nationality. Immigrants clustered in occupations with lower salaries. Despite higher literacy levels and the language advantage, Spaniards did not outperform Italians in earnings. Ethnic networks facilitated the integration of immigrants into the host society and played a role in the occupation selection of immigrants. Our results suggest that Italian prosperity in Buenos Aires was not based on superior earnings or skills but on older and powerful networks.


Migration Wages Networks Labour force Buenos Aires 

JEL Classification

N36 F22 



We thank Timothy J. Hatton, Javier Silvestre, anonymous reviewers and the editor of this Journal for very useful comments and suggestions. This article also benefited greatly from discussions in the Economic History Seminar of the Universitat de Barcelona and the XI Conference of the European Historical Economics Society (Pisa). The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Middlebury CollegeVermontUSA
  2. 2.Universidad CEU San PabloMadridSpain

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