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Economic Discrimination and Cultural Differences as Barriers to Migrant Integration: Is Reverse Causality Symmetric?

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Abstract

This paper examines the endogenous relationship between the economic and cultural integration of migrants in Switzerland or, more precisely, how economic and cultural barriers to integration reinforce each other. Are cultural differences preventing the successful integration of migrants or does the root of integration failures lie in unequal economic opportunities and discrimination? How legitimate are claims arguing migrants are economically discriminated because they don't integrate culturally compared to claims that migrants don't integrate because they are discriminated? And are Muslim communities, which currently often lie at the centre of this debate, different in this regard? Implementing an empirical method to build indices of economic discrimination and cultural differences (\cultural distance"), the findings of this paper show that, at the aggregate level, population groups facing higher economic discrimination are culturally more distant from the natives. Muslim communities are no different in this regard: their specificity resides more in the stronger discrimination they face in the labour market than in cultural differences separating them from natives. Using an instrumental variable approach, evidence at the individual level reveals that there is an asymmetric causal relationship between economic discrimination and “cultural distance", the former clearly dominating the latter. It also shows that the asymmetry is at least twice as acute for second-generation compared to first-generation migrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre Kohler, 2012. "Economic Discrimination and Cultural Differences as Barriers to Migrant Integration: Is Reverse Causality Symmetric?," IHEID Working Papers 07-2012, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:gii:giihei:heidwp07-2012
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    1. Battu, Harminder & Seaman, Paul & Zenou, Yves, 2011. "Job contact networks and the ethnic minorities," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 48-56, January.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    migration; labor market; unemployment; Muslim; religious; ethnic; discrimination; culture; integration;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J60 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - General
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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