Immigration policy is influenced by beliefs about the extent to which immigrants assimilate
into US culture, but we know little about this process. Abramitzky and co-authors
study cultural assimilation in the US during the Age of Mass Migration through an
analysis of immigrants’ naming practices. They assemble data on immigrants and their
children born in the US from the complete count 1920 and 1940 census data. Immigrant
parents gave sons and daughters less foreign-sounding names after spending more years
in the US, and chose less foreign-sounding names for sons and daughters later in the
birth order. In contrast, no such patterns are found for children born abroad or for
children of native-born parents. Furthermore, sons given more foreign names were more
likely to be unemployed and earned less than their brothers with less foreign name.
Conditional on being given an equally foreign-sounding name at birth, a brother whose
name became more popular among natives by the time he entered the labor market earned
more than his siblings. They study whether such name assimilation was impeded by immigrant
enclaves and how it varied by country of origin, family size, homeownership status,
and parental literacy.
* Joint work with Leah Boustan and Katherine Eriksson
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