The economic determinants of ethnic assimilation

Original Paper


A human capital model is developed that distinguishes between ethnic-specific skills (applicable only to a specific indigenous or immigrant group) and shared or general skills. An important determinant of assimilation is the extent to which these two forms of human capital are complements, thus promoting both assimilation and ethnic persistence, or anti-complements, promoting either assimilation or ethnic retention but not both. Implications of the model are developed for various applications including intermarriage, the effects of group size, language and religion as a basis for ethnic mergers, and the transfer society as a potential barrier to assimilation.


Ethnicity Human Capital Ethnic Intermarriage 

JEL Classification

J15 J24 Z13 



This paper has evolved over several years during which it has benefited from interactions with many people. An earlier version was presented at the Second Annual Migrant Ethnicity Meeting (IZA) and at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the European Society for Population Economics (ESPE), and a much earlier version at the Twelfth International History Congress, all of which were sources of helpful suggestions. The author is especially grateful to Barry R. Chiswick, Alan Olmstead, Timothy Hatton, Guillermina Jasso, and some anonymous referees for their encouragement and comments. The author, however, takes full responsibility for the contents of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics (m/c 144)University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.IZABonnGermany

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