The Seeds of Ideology: Historical Immigration and Political Preferences in the United States

153 Pages Posted: 22 May 2020 Last revised: 29 Mar 2021

See all articles by Paola Giuliano

Paola Giuliano

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Marco Tabellini

Harvard Business School

Multiple version iconThere are 4 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 23, 2021

Abstract

We study the long run effects of immigration on U.S. political ideology. We establish a new result: historical European immigration is associated with stronger preferences for redistribution and a more liberal ideology among Americans today. We hypothesize that European immigrants moving to the U.S. in the early twentieth century brought with them their preferences for redistribution, with long-lasting effects on political attitudes of U.S.-born individuals. After documenting that immigrants' economic characteristics and other standard economic forces cannot, alone, explain our results, we provide evidence that our findings are driven by immigrants with a longer exposure to social-welfare reforms in their countries of origin. Consistent with a process of horizontal transmission from immigrants to natives, results are stronger where historical inter-group contact was more frequent, and are not due to transmission within ancestry groups. Immigration left its footprint on American political ideology starting with the New Deal, and persisted since then.

Keywords: Immigration, preferences for redistribution, political ideology, cultural transmission

JEL Classification: D64, D72, H2, J15, N32, Z1

Suggested Citation

Giuliano, Paola and Tabellini, Marco, The Seeds of Ideology: Historical Immigration and Political Preferences in the United States (March 23, 2021). Harvard Business School BGIE Unit Working Paper No. 20-118, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3606506 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3606506

Paola Giuliano

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Marco Tabellini (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

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

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