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From Immigrants to Americans: Race and Assimilation during the Great Migration

Author

Listed:
  • Vasiliki Fouka

    (Stanford University)

  • Soumyajit Mazumder

    (Harvard University)

  • Marco Tabellini

    (Harvard Business School, Business, Government and the International Economy Unit)

Abstract

How does the appearance of a new immigrant group affect the integration of earlier generations of migrants? We study this question in the context of the first Great Migration (1915-1930), when 1.5 million African Americans moved from the US South to northern urban centers, where 30 million Europeans had arrived since 1850. We exploit plausibly exogenous variation induced by the interaction between 1900 settlements of southern-born blacks in northern cities and state-level outmigration from the US South after 1910. Black arrivals increased both the effort exerted by immigrants to assimilate and their eventual Americanization. These average effects mask substantial heterogeneity: while initially less integrated groups (i.e. Southern and Eastern Europeans) exerted more assimilation effort, assimilation success was larger for those culturally closer to native whites (i.e. Western and Northern Europeans). Labor market outcomes do not display similar heterogeneity, suggesting that these patterns cannot be entirely explained by economic forces. Our findings are instead more consistent with a framework in which changing perceptions of outgroup distance among native whites lowered the barriers to the assimilation of white immigrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Vasiliki Fouka & Soumyajit Mazumder & Marco Tabellini, 2018. "From Immigrants to Americans: Race and Assimilation during the Great Migration," Harvard Business School Working Papers 19-018, Harvard Business School, revised Jun 2019.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:19-018
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Francesco Flaviano Russo, 2021. "Conformism, Social Segregation and Cultural Assimilation," CSEF Working Papers 616, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    4. Mazumder, Soumyajit, 2019. "Becoming White: How Military Service Turned Immigrants into Americans," SocArXiv agjsm, Center for Open Science.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Immigration; assimilation; Great Migration; race; group identity.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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