Discrimination and Assimilation
Jon X. Eguia
New York University
April 25, 2012
In a heterogeneous society with two social groups with competing social norms, members of the relatively worse-off group face an incentive to adopt the social norms of the better-off group and assimilate into it. I present a theory in which the cost of assimilation is endogenous, strategically chosen by the better off group in order to screen those who wish to assimilate. In equilibrium, only high types who generate positive externalities to the members of the better-off group assimilate. In an application of the theory, I show that the “acting white” phenomenon in which students of a disadvantaged ethnic group punish peers who succeed academically can be explained as an optimal strategy on the part of untalented students to try to keep their more able peers in their community.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: Assimilation, discrimination, social groups, acting white
JEL Classification: J15, D71working papers series
Date posted: August 11, 2010 ; Last revised: April 26, 2012
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