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Deepening or Diminishing Ethnic Divides? The Impact of Urban Migration in Kenya


  • Eric Kramon

    (George Washington University)

  • Sarah Baird

    (George Washington University)

  • Joan Hamory

    (University of Oklahoma)

  • Edward Miguel

    (University of California, Berkeley)


The impact of urban migration on ethnic politics is the subject of long-standing debate. "First-generation" modernization theories predict that urban migration should reduce ethnic identification and increase trust between groups. "Second-generation" modernization perspectives argue the opposite: Urban migration may amplify ethnic identification and reduce trust. We test these competing expectations with a three-wave panel survey following more than 8,000 Kenyans over a 15-year period, providing novel evidence on the impact of urbanmigration. Using individual fixed effects regressions, we show that urban migration leads to reductions in ethnic identification; ethnicity's importance to the individual diminishes after migrating. Yet urban migration also reduces trust between ethnic groups, and trust in people generally. Urban migrants become less attached to their ethnicity but more suspicious. The results advance the literature on urbanization and politics and have implications for the potential consequences of ongoing urbanization processes around the world.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Kramon & Sarah Baird & Joan Hamory & Edward Miguel, 2021. "Deepening or Diminishing Ethnic Divides? The Impact of Urban Migration in Kenya," Working Papers 2021-08, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2021-08

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Willa Friedman & Michael Kremer & Edward Miguel & Rebecca Thornton, 2016. "Education as Liberation?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(329), pages 1-30, January.
    2. World Bank, 2016. "Kenya Urbanization Review," World Bank Publications - Reports 23753, The World Bank Group.
    3. Robinson, Amanda Lea, 2020. "Ethnic Diversity, Segregation and Ethnocentric Trust in Africa," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(1), pages 217-239, January.
    4. Posner,Daniel N., 2005. "Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521541794.
    5. Tariq Thachil, 2017. "Do Rural Migrants Divide Ethnically in the City? Evidence from an Ethnographic Experiment in India," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 61(4), pages 908-926, October.
    6. Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 159-217, January.
    7. Ndegwa, Stephen N., 1997. "Citizenship and Ethnicity: An Examination of Two Transition Moments in Kenyan Politics," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 91(3), pages 599-616, September.
    8. Benjamin Marx & Thomas M. Stoker & Tavneet Suri, 2019. "There Is No Free House: Ethnic Patronage in a Kenyan Slum," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 36-70, October.
    9. Posner,Daniel N., 2005. "Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521833981.
    10. Baird, Sarah & Hamory, Joan & Miguel, Edward, 2008. "Tracking, Attrition and Data Quality in the Kenyan Life Panel Survey Round 1 (KLPS-1)," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt3cw7p1hx, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    11. Marx, Benjamin & Pons, Vincent & Suri, Tavneet, 2021. "Diversity and team performance in a Kenyan organization☆," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 197(C).
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Bluhm & Roland Hodler & Paul Schaudt, 2021. "Ethnofederalism and Ethnic Voting," CESifo Working Paper Series 9314, CESifo.

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