The conventional wisdom is that early European immigrants assimilated quickly, while contemporary immigrants are assimilating more slowly, but is there strong evidence for this claim? Economic historians Leah Boustan, Ran Abramitzky and Katherine Eriksson propose to study the extent and pace of cultural assimilation of European immigrants during the so-called Age of Mass Migration (1850-1920), when the U.S. maintained an open border and compare the rate of cultural assimilation in that earlier period to the rate of assimilation of contemporary (post-1965) immigrant populations.
The investigators will use a diverse set of proxies for assimilation, from marriage outside one’s ethnic group, English language use, choosing a less-foreign name for one’s children, and becoming an American citizen. They propose to examine how naming practices vary with length of time since arrival, birth ordering, and residence in an ethnic enclave, as well as how the degree of foreignness of the names that immigrant parents give their children affects key social and economic outcomes. For example, they will assess whether the children of immigrants with less-foreign names experienced higher educational attainment, earnings and employment, or out-of-marriage rates than their peers with foreign-sounding names.