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Caught between Cultures: Unintended Consequences of Improving Opportunity for Immigrant Girls

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  • Gordon B. Dahl
  • Christina Felfe
  • Paul Frijters
  • Helmut Rainer

Abstract

What happens when immigrant girls are given increased opportunities to integrate into the workplace and society, but their parents value more traditional cultural outcomes? Building on Akerlof and Kranton's identity framework (2000), we construct a simple theoretical model which shows how expanding opportunities for immigrant girls can have the unintended consequence of reducing their well-being, since identity-concerned parents will constrain their daughter's choices. The model can explain the otherwise puzzling findings from a reform which granted automatic birthright citizenship to eligible immigrant children born in Germany after January 1, 2000. Using survey data we collected in 57 German schools and comparing those born in the months before versus after the reform, we find that birthright citizenship lowers measures of life satisfaction and self-esteem for immigrant girls. This is especially true for Muslims, where traditional cultural identity is particularly salient. Birthright citizenship results in disillusionment where immigrant Muslim girls believe their chances of achieving their educational goals are lower and the perceived odds of having to forgo a career for family rise. Consistent with the model, immigrant Muslim parents invest less in their daughters' schooling and have a lower probability of speaking German with their daughters if they are born after the reform. We further find that immigrant Muslim girls granted birthright citizenship are less likely to self-identify as German and are more socially isolated. In contrast, immigrant boys experience, if anything, an improvement in well-being and other outcomes we examine. Taken together, the findings point towards immigrant girls being pushed by parents to conform to a role within traditional culture, whereas boys are allowed to take advantage of the opportunities that come with citizenship. Alternative models can explain some of the findings in isolation, but are not consistent more generally.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon B. Dahl & Christina Felfe & Paul Frijters & Helmut Rainer, 2020. "Caught between Cultures: Unintended Consequences of Improving Opportunity for Immigrant Girls," CESifo Working Paper Series 8045, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_8045
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    5. Gathmann, Christina & Garbers, Julio, 2023. "Citizenship and integration," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
    6. Felfe, Christina & Kocher, Martin G. & Rainer, Helmut & Saurer, Judith & Siedler, Thomas, 2021. "More opportunity, more cooperation? The behavioral effects of birthright citizenship on immigrant youth," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 200(C).
    7. Hannah Zillessen, 2022. "Uncertainty, Citizenship & Migrant Saving Choices," Economics Series Working Papers 1008, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    8. Holmlund, Helena & Rainer, Helmut & Reich, Patrick, 2023. "All geared towards success? Cultural origins of gender gaps in student achievement," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 209(C), pages 222-242.
    9. Monteiro Amaral,Sofia Fernando & Dinarte Diaz,Lelys Ileana & Dominguez,Patricio & Perez-Vincent,Santiago M., 2021. "Helping Families Help Themselves ? Heterogeneous Effects of a Digital Parenting Program," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9850, The World Bank.
    10. Philipp Jaschke & Sulin Sardoschau & Marco Tabellini, 2023. "Scared Straight? Threat and Assimilation of Refugees in Germany," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 384, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    identity; citizenship; immigration; integration;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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