Choosing Racial Identity in the United States, 1880-1940

79 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2019 Last revised: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by Ricardo Dahis

Ricardo Dahis

Northwestern University

Emily Nix

University College London

Nancy Qian

Yale University - Department of Economics

Date Written: November 2019

Abstract

This paper documents that a large number of African American men experienced a change in racial identity to white during 1880 to 1940, while analogous changes were negligible for other races. We provide descriptive evidence that is consistent with the conventional wisdom that “passing” for white was a response to severe discrimination, and came at great personal cost. The findings suggest that contrary to traditional economic thinking, racial identity is neither entirely exogenous nor fixed over the lifetime, and responds to incentives.

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Suggested Citation

Dahis, Ricardo and Nix, Emily and Qian, Nancy, Choosing Racial Identity in the United States, 1880-1940 (November 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3492879 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3492879

Ricardo Dahis (Contact Author)

Northwestern University ( email )

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Emily Nix

University College London ( email )

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London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

Nancy Qian

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

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