Identity and Mobility: Historical Fractionalization, Parochial Institutions, and Occupational Choice in the American Midwest
This paper examines the role played by a specific identity, defined as the attachment to a hometown, in determining occupational choice and mobility. The analysis links competition between ethnic networks in the Midwest when it was first developing, and the in-group identity that emerged endogenously to support these networks, to institutional participation and occupational choice today. Individuals born in counties with greater ethnic fractionalization in 1860 are today -- 150 years later --(i) significantly more likely to participate in institutions such as churches and parochial schools that transmit identity from one generation to the next, and (ii) significantly less likely to select into mobile skilled occupations. The effect of historical fractionalization on participation in these socializing institutions actually grows stronger over the course of the twentieth century, emphasizing the idea that small differences in initial conditions can have large long-term effects on institutions and economic choices.
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