A crucial reason why the children of immigrants do so well in America is the mobility of immigrants. “Immigrants tend to move to locations in the United States that offer the best opportunities for their kids, whereas the U.S. born are more rooted in place,” according to the authors.

Abramitzky and Boustan discuss the contrast between immigrants and the plight of the family members who J.D. Vance wrote about in his book Hillbilly Elegy, which focused on an economically depressed part of Ohio near the Kentucky border. “For Vance, moving up the ladder meant moving out of his childhood community, a step that many Americans are unwilling to take.”

Since his bid for the U.S. Senate, Vance has turned into an opponent of immigration, against even high-skilled temporary visas, and implied that restricting immigration would help people like those described in his book. However, the data presented convincingly by economists Abramitzky and Boustan show a policy of restricting immigration will not help people living in economically depressed parts of America. There is no connection between the two, except that immigrants show the best approach is to move if necessary to improve your family’s chances of success in the United States.

The parents of Mohit “Mo” Bhende immigrated to America from India. Mo was born in Houston, Texas. Because his father’s job was in Houston and his mother’s residency was in New Orleans, he lived with his grandparents in Bombay until he was four years old. (Listen here for a podcast with Mo’s story.) The family reunited in New Orleans and later moved to Pittsburgh, where Mo was one of fewer than five Indian-American students in a high school with a senior class of 550.

Although he graduated seventh in his class, 12 colleges rejected Mo for admission. He was accepted to his safety school, Penn State, on a scholarship. He said the defining moment in his life came from his father’s reaction. Rather than being upset that his son was declined admission at many top colleges, Mo’s father told him, “All it takes is one” and encouraged him to make the most of his time at Penn State. “That simple philosophy of all it takes is one has been a governing thesis of my life,” said Mo. “All it takes is one investor, one cofounder, one wife, one house, one everything.” Today, Mo is CEO and cofounder of Karat, a company valued at $1.1 billion with approximately 400 employees. The company has identified a lucrative niche by pioneering the “Interviewing Cloud” to match employers with needed software engineers.

“Now, as a parent myself, I keenly understand the magnitude of the sacrifices my parents made for me,” said Mo Bhende in an interview. “As new immigrants with less than $100 in their pockets, their decision for me to live with my grandparents as an infant so they could get established in their careers was a huge sacrifice, but one that ultimately established life-defining connections for me to my family and heritage. It was my grandmother who wisely told me from an early age that ‘money is not everything,’ which ultimately guided me to find my purpose in creating Karat and identifying our organization’s purpose of unlocking opportunity for everyone.”

Katya Echazarreta immigrated to America with her parents from Mexico as a seven-year-old. “She recalls being overwhelmed in a new place where she didn’t speak the language, and a teacher warned her she might have to be held back,” according to CNN. Katya worked four jobs in college and contributed to her family’s income in high school, including by working at McDonald’s. After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UCLA, Katya worked for two years as an electrical engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and expects to complete her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University in 2023. On June 4, 2022, she was selected to join a Blue Origin spaceflight. She hopes to make travel in space accessible to people in America like her, those who start life with little means but have big dreams.

“The dream that propels many immigrants to America’s shores is the possibility of offering a better future for their children,” write Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan. “Using millions of records of immigrant families, we find that the children of immigrants surpass their parents and move up the economic ladder both in the past and today. If this is the American Dream, then immigrants achieve it—big time.”