Discrimination and Assimilation

39 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2010 Last revised: 24 Mar 2015

See all articles by Jon X. Eguia

Jon X. Eguia

Michigan State University - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 5, 2013


I present a theory of assimilation in a heterogeneous society composed of two groups with distinct social norms and unequal statuses. Members of the group with a relatively disadvantaged status face an incentive to assimilate, embracing the norms of the more advantaged group. The cost of assimilation is endogenous and strategically chosen by the advantaged group to screen those seeking to assimilate. In equilibrium, only highly skilled agents, who generate positive externalities, choose to assimilate. The theory provides a novel explanation of the so called “acting white” phenomenon, in which students from disadvantaged ethnic groups punish their co-ethnics who succeed academically. I show that punishing success and thus raising the cost of acquiring skills needed to assimilate is an optimal strategy by low ability students to keep their more able co-ethnics in the disadvantaged group.

Keywords: Assimilation, discrimination, acting white, peer effects, social norms

JEL Classification: J15, D71, Z13, D62, I24

Suggested Citation

Eguia, Jon X., Discrimination and Assimilation (June 5, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1657144 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1657144

Jon X. Eguia (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - Department of Economics ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

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