An Intellectual History of the Economic Debate about the Bracero Program, 1942-1964

Open Access
Author:
Sobchack, Lucas J
Area of Honors:
History
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Anne Carver Rose, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael James Milligan, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • bracero
  • program
  • history
Abstract:
The Bracero Program was a migrant labor program that brought Mexican nationals into the United States from 1942 to 1964. The program was initially created with the premise of filling the labor gap that World War II had produced, when many Americans went to fight the war. However, there were other reasons why the program began. The most important were economic incentives for agricultural producers who benefited greatly from having a steady flow of cheap labor. These producers, as well as their allies in Congress, kept the program alive after the end of the war and into the 1960s. Along the way, labor unions and politicians such as President Truman fought against the program in the name of keeping domestic wages high. These voices, as well as changing attitudes throughout the United States, brought about the eventual end of the program. This thesis refocuses scholarly attention away from ethnic prejudices against Mexican immigrants and toward economic issues as the dominant reason for the creation and extended life of the Bracero Program.