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

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.

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Paper provided by Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies in its series IHEID Working Papers with number 07-2012.

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Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: 22 Apr 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:gii:giihei:heidwp07-2012
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  1. Arai, Mahmood & Karlsson, Jonas & Lundholm, Michael, 2008. "On Fragile Grounds: A Replication of Are Muslim Immigrants Different in Terms of Cultural Integration?," Research Papers in Economics 2009:5, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
  2. Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2010. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262232588, June.
  3. Constant, Amelie F. & Gataullina, Liliya & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2006. "Ethnosizing Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 2040, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Battu, Harminder & Seaman, Paul & Zenou, Yves, 2011. "Job contact networks and the ethnic minorities," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 48-56, January.
  5. Amelie Constant & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2007. "Measuring Ethnic Identity and Its Impact on Economic Behavior," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 721, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  6. Bisin, Alberto & Patacchini, Eleonora & Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2006. "'Bend It Like Beckham': Identity, Socialization and Assimilation," CEPR Discussion Papers 5662, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Amelie Constant & Klaus Zimmermann, 2006. "The Making of Entrepreneurs in Germany: Are Native Men and Immigrants Alike?," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 279-300, 04.
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