Faith and Assimilation: Italian Immigrants in the US

81 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2021

See all articles by Stefano Gagliarducci

Stefano Gagliarducci

University of Rome, Tor Vergata - Faculty of Economics; Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Marco Tabellini

Harvard Business School

Date Written: February 2021

Abstract

We study the effects of religious organizations on immigrants' assimilation. We focus on the arrival of Italian Catholic churches in the US between 1900 and 1920, when four million Italians had moved to America, and anti-Catholic sentiments were widespread. We combine newly collected Catholic directories on the presence of Italian churches across years and counties with the full count US Census of Population. We find that Italian churches reduced the social assimilation of Italian immigrants, lowering intermarriage rates and increasing ethnic residential segregation. We find no evidence that this was the result of either lower effort exerted by immigrants to ``fit in'' the American society or increased desire to vertically transmit national culture. Instead, we provide evidence for other two, non-mutually exclusive, mechanisms. First, Italian churches raised the frequency of interactions among fellow Italians, likely generating peer effects and reducing contact with other groups. Second, they increased the salience of the immigrant community among natives, thereby triggering backlash and discrimination.

JEL Classification: J15, N31, Z12

Suggested Citation

Gagliarducci, Stefano and Tabellini, Marco, Faith and Assimilation: Italian Immigrants in the US (February 2021). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP15794, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3784033

Stefano Gagliarducci (Contact Author)

University of Rome, Tor Vergata - Faculty of Economics ( email )

Via Columbia n.2
Rome, rome 00100
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/stefanogagliarducci/

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) ( email )

Via Due Macelli, 73
Rome, 00187
Italy

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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

Marco Tabellini

Harvard Business School ( email )

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

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