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

106 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2018 Last revised: 25 May 2021

See all articles by Vasiliki Fouka

Vasiliki Fouka

Stanford University

Soumyajit Mazumder

Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Government

Marco Tabellini

Harvard Business School

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 13, 2021

Abstract

How does the arrival of a new minority group affect the social acceptance and outcomes of existing minorities? We study this question in the context of the First Great Migration. Between 1915 and 1930, 1.5 million African Americans moved from the U.S. South to Northern urban centers, which were home to millions of European immigrants arrived in previous decades. We formalize and empirically test the hypothesis that the inflows of Black Americans changed perceptions of outgroup distance among native-born whites, reducing the barriers to the social integration of European immigrants. Predicting Black in-migration with a version of the shift-share instrument, we find that immigrants living in areas that received more Black migrants experienced higher assimilation along a range of outcomes, such as naturalization rates and intermarriages with native-born spouses. Evidence from the historical press and patterns of heterogeneity across immigrant nationalities provide additional support to the role of shifting perceptions of the white majority.

Keywords: Immigration, assimilation, Great Migration, race, group identity

JEL Classification: J11, J15, N32.

Suggested Citation

Fouka, Vasiliki and Mazumder, Soumyajit and Tabellini, Marco, From Immigrants to Americans: Race and Assimilation during the Great Migration (May 13, 2021). Harvard Business School BGIE Unit Working Paper No. 19-018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3242111 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3242111

Vasiliki Fouka

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Soumyajit Mazumder

Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Marco Tabellini (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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