Identity, Parochial Institutions, and Occupational Choice: Linking the Past to the Present in the American Midwest

58 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2008 Last revised: 26 Jun 2010

See all articles by Kaivan D. Munshi

Kaivan D. Munshi

Brown University - Department of Economics

Nicholas L. Wilson

Brown University - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2008

Abstract

This paper documents the presence of non-economic career motivations in the U.S. labor market, explores reasons why such motivations could arise, and provides an explanation for why they might have persisted across many generations. The analysis links ethnic (migrant) labor market networks in the American Midwest when it was first being settled, the local identity or attachment to place that emerged endogenously to maintain the integrity of these networks, and occupational choice today. While fractionalization may adversely affect the performance of secular institutions, ethnic competition in the labor market could at the same time have strengthened within-group loyalty and parochial institutions. These values and their complementary institutions, notably the church, could have mutually reinforced each other over many overlapping generations, long after the networks themselves had ceased to be salient. Counties with greater ethnic fractionalization in 1860 are indeed associated with steadily increasing participation in select religious denominations historically dominated by the migrants all the way through the twentieth century. Complementing this result, individuals born in high fractionalization counties are significantly less likely to select into geographically mobile professional occupations and, hence, to migrate out of their county of birth, despite the fact that these counties are indistinguishable from low fractionalization counties in terms of local public good provision and economic activity today.

Suggested Citation

Munshi, Kaivan D. and Wilson, Nicholas L., Identity, Parochial Institutions, and Occupational Choice: Linking the Past to the Present in the American Midwest (January 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w13717. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1082696

Kaivan D. Munshi (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Box B
Providence, RI 02912
United States
401-863-9331 (Phone)
401-863-1970 (Fax)

Nicholas L. Wilson

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Providence, RI 02912
United States

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