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Faith and Assimilation: Italian Immigrants in the US

Stefano Gagliarducci () and Marco Tabellini
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Marco Tabellini: Harvard Business School and CEPR

No 2102, EIEF Working Papers Series from Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF)

Abstract: We study the effects of religious organizations on immigrants' assimilation. We focus on the arrival of Italian Catholic churches in the US between 1900 and 1920, when four million Italians had moved to America, and anti-Catholic sentiments were widespread. We combine newly collected Catholic directories on the presence of Italian churches across years and counties with the full count US Census of Population. We find that Italian churches reduced the social assimilation of Italian immigrants, lowering intermarriage rates and increasing ethnic residential segregation. We find no evidence that this was the result of either lower effort exerted by immigrants to “fit in” the American society or increased desire to vertically transmit national culture. Instead, we provide evidence for other two, non-mutually exclusive, mechanisms. First, Italian churches raised the frequency of interactions among fellow Italians, likely generating peer effects and reducing contact with other groups. Second, they increased the salience of the immigrant community among natives, thereby triggering backlash and discrimination.

Pages: 78 pages
Date: 2021, Revised 2021-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his, nep-ltv, nep-mig, nep-soc and nep-ure
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Working Paper: Faith and Assimilation: Italian Immigrants in the US (2021) Downloads
Working Paper: Faith and Assimilation: Italian Immigrants in the US (2021) Downloads
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