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Immigrants Assimilate as Communities, Not Just as Individuals


  • Hatton, Timothy J.

    () (University of Essex)

  • Leigh, Andrew

    () (Australian National University)


There is a large econometric literature that examines the economic assimilation of immigrants in the United States and elsewhere. On the whole immigrants are seen as atomistic individuals assimilating in a largely anonymous labour market, a view that runs counter to the spirit of the equally large literature on ethnic groups. Here we argue that immigrants assimilate as communities, not just as individuals. The longer the immigrant community has been established the better adjusted it is to the host society and the more the host society comes to accept that ethnic group. Thus economic outcomes for immigrants should depend not just on their own characteristics, but also on the legacy of past immigration from the same country. In this paper we test this hypothesis using data from a 5 percent sample of the 1980, 1990 and 2000 US censuses. We find that history matters in immigrant assimilation: the stronger is the tradition of immigration from a given source country, the better the economic outcomes for new immigrants from that source.

Suggested Citation

  • Hatton, Timothy J. & Leigh, Andrew, 2007. "Immigrants Assimilate as Communities, Not Just as Individuals," IZA Discussion Papers 2538, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2538

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mehmet E. Yaya, 2016. "Within inequality characteristics and adaptation of immigrants in the United States," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 695-714, September.
    2. Antonella D’Agostino & Andrea Regoli & Giancarlo Cornelio & Fabio Berti, 2016. "Studying Income Inequality of Immigrant Communities in Italy," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 127(1), pages 83-100, May.
    3. André Martínez-Fritscher & Aldo Musacchio & Martina Viarengo, 2010. "The Great Leap Forward: The Political Economy Of Education In Brazil, 1889-1930," Working Papers 03-2010, Universidade de São Paulo, Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade de Ribeirão Preto.
    4. James Foreman-Peck & Peng Zhou, 2013. "The strength and persistence of entrepreneurial cultures," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 163-187, January.
    5. Richard M. Todd & Michael Grover, 2008. "Accounting for regional migration patterns and homeownership disparities in the Hmong-American refugee community, 1980-2000," Community Affairs Report 2008-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    6. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Sinning, Mathias G., 2011. "Neighborhood diversity and the appreciation of native- and immigrant-owned homes," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 214-226, May.
    7. Alberto Bisin & Thierry Verdier, 2010. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and Socialization," NBER Working Papers 16512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Riccardo Faini & Steiner Strom & Alessandra Venturini & Claudia Villosio, 2009. "Are Foreign Migrants more Assimilated than Native Ones?," LABORatorio R. Revelli Working Papers Series 96, LABORatorio R. Revelli, Centre for Employment Studies.
    9. Jain, Apoorva & Peter, Klara Sabirianova, 2017. "Limits to Wage Growth: Understanding the Wage Divergence between Immigrants and Natives," IZA Discussion Papers 10891, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Renee Luthra & Thomas Soehl, 2015. "From Parent to Child? Transmission of Educational Attainment Within Immigrant Families: Methodological Considerations," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(2), pages 543-567, April.
    11. Kahanec, Martin, 2012. "Report No. 49: Skilled Labor Flows: Lessons from the European Union," IZA Research Reports 49, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. repec:bla:intmig:v:51:y:2017:i:2:p:416-451 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Longhi, Simonetta, 2017. "Spatial-Ethnic Inequalities: The Role of Location in the Estimation of Ethnic Wage Differentials," IZA Discussion Papers 11073, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Vaira-Lucero, Matias & Nahm, Daehoon & Tani, Massimiliano, 2012. "Socioeconomic Assimilation and Wealth Accumulation of Migrants in Australia," IZA Discussion Papers 6969, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. Ferrie, Joseph & Hatton, Timothy J., 2013. "Two Centuries of International Migration," IZA Discussion Papers 7866, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    16. Constant, Amelie F. & Schüller, Simone & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2013. "Ethnic Spatial Dispersion and Immigrant Identity," IZA Discussion Papers 7868, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Kahanec, Martin & Tosun, Mehmet S., 2007. "Political Economy of Immigration in Germany: Attitudes and Citizenship Aspirations," IZA Discussion Papers 3140, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    18. Alessandra Venturini, 2012. "Methodological Aspects of Research on Flows Human Capital Flows: A survey," RSCAS Working Papers carim2012/01, European University Institute.
    19. Strom, Steinar & Venturini, Alessandra & Villosio, Claudia, 2013. "Wage Assimilation: Migrants versus Natives and Foreign Migrants versus Internal Migrants," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201341, University of Turin.
    20. Edgard Polanco, 2009. "Asimilación laboral de los inmigrantes colombianos en Estados Unidos," REVISTA DE ECONOMÍA DEL ROSARIO, UNIVERSIDAD DEL ROSARIO, May.
    21. Georgiadis, Andreas & Manning, Alan, 2013. "One nation under a groove?: understanding national identity," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 47581, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    22. Georgiadis, Andreas & Manning, Alan, 2013. "One nation under a groove? Understanding national identity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 166-185.
    23. Timothy J Hatton & Zachary Ward, 2018. "International Migration in the Atlantic Economy 1850 - 1940," CEH Discussion Papers 02, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.

    More about this item


    assimilation; US labor market; immigration;

    JEL classification:

    • F2 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers

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