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Changing Ingroup Boundaries: The Effect of Immigration on Race Relations in the US


  • Fouka, Vasiliki

    (Stanford University)

  • Tabellini, Marco

    (Harvard Business School)


How do social group boundaries evolve? Does the appearance of a new outgroup change the ingroup's perceptions of other outgroups? We introduce a conceptual framework of context-dependent categorization, in which exposure to one minority leads to recategorization of other minorities as in- or outgroups depending on perceived distances across groups. We test this framework by studying how Mexican immigration to the US affected White Americans' attitudes and behaviors towards Black Americans. We combine survey and crime data with a difference-in-differences design and an instrumental variables strategy. Consistent with the theory, Mexican immigration improves Whites' racial attitudes, increases support for pro-Black government policies and lowers anti-Black hate crimes, while simultaneously increasing prejudice against Hispanics. Results generalize beyond Hispanics and Blacks and a survey experiment provides direct evidence for recategorization. Our findings imply that changes in the size of one group can affect the entire web of inter-group relations in diverse societies.

Suggested Citation

  • Fouka, Vasiliki & Tabellini, Marco, 2021. "Changing Ingroup Boundaries: The Effect of Immigration on Race Relations in the US," IZA Discussion Papers 14311, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp14311

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. KONDO Keisuke, 2016. "Introduction to Spatial Econometric Analysis: Creating spatially lagged variables in Stata," Discussion papers 16901, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    2. Hopkins, Daniel J., 2010. "Politicized Places: Explaining Where and When Immigrants Provoke Local Opposition," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 104(1), pages 40-60, February.
    3. Lilla V. Orr & Gregory A. Huber, 2020. "The Policy Basis of Measured Partisan Animosity in the United States," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 64(3), pages 569-586, July.
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    More about this item


    ingroup–outgroup relations; race; immigration;
    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

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