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

Vasiliki Fouka (), Soumyajit Mazumder () and Marco Tabellini ()
Additional contact information
Vasiliki Fouka: Stanford University
Soumyajit Mazumder: Harvard University
Marco Tabellini: Harvard Business School

No 445, Development Working Papers from Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano

Abstract: How does the appearance of a new out-group affect the economic, social and cultural integration of previous outsiders? 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 urban centers in the North, where 30 million Europeans had arrived since 1850. We test the hypothesis that black inflows led to the establishment of a binary black-white racial classification, and facilitated the incorporation of - previously racially ambiguous - European immigrants into the white majority. We exploit 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 that were culturally closer to native whites (i.e. Western and Northern Europeans). These patterns are consistent with a framework in which changing perceptions of out-group distance among native whites lower the barriers to the assimilation of white immigrants.

Keywords: Immigration; Assimilation; Great Migration; Race; Group Identity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J11 J15 N32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 85
Date: 2019-02-04
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his, nep-int, nep-mig, nep-soc and nep-ure
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