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Identity, Parochial Institutions, and Occupational Choice: Linking the Past to the Present in the American Midwest

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  • Kaivan Munshi
  • Nicholas Wilson

Abstract

This paper documents the presence of non-economic career motivations in the U.S. labor market, explores reasons why such motivations could arise, and provides an explanation for why they might have persisted across many generations. The analysis links ethnic (migrant) labor market networks in the American Midwest when it was first being settled, the local identity or attachment to place that emerged endogenously to maintain the integrity of these networks, and occupational choice today. While fractionalization may adversely affect the performance of secular institutions, ethnic competition in the labor market could at the same time have strengthened within-group loyalty and parochial institutions. These values and their complementary institutions, notably the church, could have mutually reinforced each other over many overlapping generations, long after the networks themselves had ceased to be salient. Counties with greater ethnic fractionalization in 1860 are indeed associated with steadily increasing participation in select religious denominations historically dominated by the migrants all the way through the twentieth century. Complementing this result, individuals born in high fractionalization counties are significantly less likely to select into geographically mobile professional occupations and, hence, to migrate out of their county of birth, despite the fact that these counties are indistinguishable from low fractionalization counties in terms of local public good provision and economic activity today.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13717.

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Date of creation: Jan 2008
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13717

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Cited by:
  1. Bisin, Alberto & Patacchini, Eleonora & Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2010. "Bend It Like Beckham: Ethnic Identity and Integration," IZA Discussion Papers 5234, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Nathan Nunn, 2009. "The Importance of History for Economic Development," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 65-92, 05.
  3. Samuel Bowles & Glenn C. Loury & Rajiv Sethi, 2014. "Group Inequality," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 129-152, 02.
  4. Alberto Bisin & Thierry Verdier, 2010. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and Socialization," NBER Working Papers 16512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Delia Furtado & Nikolaos Theodoropoulos, 2009. "Intermarriage and Immigrant Employment: The Role of Networks," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 3-2009, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
  6. Jeanne Lafortune & José Tessada, 2012. "Smooth(er) Landing? The Dynamic Role of Networks in the Location and Occupational Choice of Immigrants," Working Papers ClioLab 14, EH Clio Lab. Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

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