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Ethnic Mixing in Early Childhood

Author

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  • Boucher, Vincent
  • Tumen, Semih
  • Vlassopoulos, Michael
  • Wahba, Jackline
  • Zenou, Yves

Abstract

The social integration of minority groups is a major policy challenge for many countries. This paper addresses this issue in the context of an early childhood program conducted in Turkey aimed at preparing 5-year-old native and Syrian refugee children for elementary school. We randomly assign children to groups with varying ethnic composition and examine whether random exposure to non-coethnic children over a period of 2 months affects interethnic friendship formation and language acquisition. We find that exposure to children of the other ethnicity leads to an increase in the formation of interethnic friendships, especially for Turkish children, while the Turkish language skills of Syrian children are better developed in classes with a larger presence of Turkish children. To explain the empirical patterns, we develop a model of friendship formation with two key mechanisms: preference bias for forming coethnic links, and congestion in the friendship formation process. Structural estimation of the model suggests that interethnic contact: (i) reduces the share of own-ethnicity friends, and (ii) has a non-monotonic effect on the bias toward forming own-ethnicity friendships beyond what would be expected given the size of the group (inbreeding homophily). The latter finding implies that increased exposure of minority children to non-coethnic children can lead to more in-group bias in friendship formation, relative to when the two ethnic shares are more balanced. Finally, counterfactual analysis indicates that improvement in the language skills of Syrian children can offset more than half of the effect that ethnic bias has on friendship formation patterns.

Suggested Citation

  • Boucher, Vincent & Tumen, Semih & Vlassopoulos, Michael & Wahba, Jackline & Zenou, Yves, 2020. "Ethnic Mixing in Early Childhood," CEPR Discussion Papers 15528, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:15528
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    7. Angerer, Silvia & Glätzle-Rützler, Daniela & Lergetporer, Philipp & Sutter, Matthias, 2016. "Cooperation and discrimination within and across language borders: Evidence from children in a bilingual city," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 254-264.
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    1. Biavaschi, Costanza & Giulietti, Corrado & Zenou, Yves, 2021. "Social Networks and (Political) Assimilation in the Age of Mass Migration," CEPR Discussion Papers 16182, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    contact theory; Refugees; Social Cohesion; Social Networks;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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