The Seeds of Ideology: Historical Immigration and Political Preferences in the United States
138 Pages Posted: 22 May 2020 Last revised: 3 Feb 2023
Date Written: January 2023
We study the long run effects of immigration on American political ideology. Exploiting cross-county variation in the presence of European immigrants between 1900 and 1930, we document that historical European immigration is associated with stronger preferences for redistribution and a more liberal ideology among Americans today. We show that this result is driven by immigrants with a longer exposure to social-welfare reforms in their countries of origin prior to emigration. Our evidence suggests that the vertical transmission of preferences within immigrant enclaves was complemented by horizontal socialization that promoted the spillover of ideology from immigrants to natives. This process was reinforced by immigrants' political incorporation in the Democratic voting bloc and by the election of legislators who were more likely to support pro-redistribution bills.
Keywords: Immigration, preferences for redistribution, political ideology, cultural transmission
JEL Classification: D64, D72, H2, J15, N32, Z1
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