Individuals from Greater Syria were the first major wave of Arab immigrants to the US, mostly during 1878-1948 (Cainkar [2002a]; Majaj ). Most of these early Arab immigrants were Christian. Assimilation and access to the full set of opportunities available in America required becoming a citizen. At the height of the first wave of Arab immigration into the US (1888-1914), one had to be white to be a citizen (except, freedmen and their descendants). Asians were explicitly excluded from whiteness and, hence, not eligible for citizenship. West Asian immigrants argued that they were Caucasian and therefore white, even if Asian. Through a series of court cases, culminating in George Dow v. United States 1915, Syrians were legally declared white.
Prior to the creation of Israel in 1948 neither national politics nor foreign affairs had much effect on Arab integration into American society. After that, Arabs in the US were subjected to “political and legal discrimination and monitoring, both by the US government and by private groups (Akram :90).” Nevertheless, Arab immigrants did not develop strong ethnic institutions until the late 1960s and early 1970s. So, although the political concerns surrounding American foreign policies did shape Arab and Muslim integration into American society during 1948 - 1972, Arabs and Muslims were able to integrate into American society and acculturate into white racial identity. During the period from 1972 - September 11, 2001, domestic American politics combined with foreign affairs to redefine the identities of Arab and Islamic immigrants away from their ancestral origins and more toward globalized Pan-Arab, Pan-Muslim, or “Middleastern” identity. But, the shift from ancestral identities toward globalized identities did not affect racial self-identification as white.
Post-September 11, 2001
We may think of a racializing event as a macroeconomic and historically substantial social phenomenon that is outside of the gradual evolutionary change associated with social interactions; an exogenous stigmatizing action or set of actions such that there is a discrete increase in the expected payoff of own-group altruism and a discrete increase in the cost of other-group antagonism. As such, a racializing event increases an agent’s expected payoff to playing an own-group racial identity strategy rather than playing an acculturation strategy (Darity, Mason, Stewart, ). Further, when the precipitating cause of a racializing event is unanticipated, such as the attacks of September 11, 2001, the ex post stigmatization is a natural experiment, exogenous to the evolutionary process of racial identity selection.
Arab and Muslim Americans were subject to substantial stigmatization post-9/11. Among other areas of American life, this stigmatization occurred in federal public policies, social interactions across the country, and labor market treatment. For example, the federal public policy response to the Al Qaeda attacks involved an invasive set of government policies specifically targeting Arabs and Muslims.
In reference to the period immediately following September 11, 2001, Cainkar ([2002a]) writes that, “Of the roughly 20 rule changes, executive orders and laws affecting immigrants or non-immigrant visitors, 15 predominantly target Arabs.” Table 1 lists some of these policies1. Shortly after the attacks more than 1,200 Muslim and Arab citizens were detained. Most of these citizens were males of Pakistani and Egyptian ancestry. None were terrorists: 100 were held on minor crimes and 500 were held on immigration violations. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) adopted new rules that would allow the federal government to indefinitely detain non-citizens; those detained were disproportionately Arabs and Muslims.
On November 9, 2001, the DOJ mailed interview requests to 5,000 Arab and Muslim males, 18 - 33 years of age, who arrived in America after January 2000 on student, work, or tourist visas. These were nominally voluntary interviews. Most recipients complied: 5 people declined to be interviewed, 104 letters returned because of incorrect addresses. None of the interviews supplied information on the September 11 attacks. The same month the US Department of State slowed the visa process for males ages 16 - 45 from Arab and Muslim countries. Further, the INS engaged in mass arrests of students who had violated the terms of their visas; all of these students were from Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
By the first week of December 2001 the DOJ was once again rounding up young Arab and Muslim males for deportation. Specifically, INS rounded up 6,000 “Arab men” who had ignored deportation orders. During Spring 2002 the DOJ started “voluntary” interviews of another 3,000 Arab and Muslim males. These men were 18 - 33 years of age and had entered the US after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Cainkar ([2002a]) reports that on August 12, 2002 the DOJ finalized plans requiring thousands of visitors from predominately Muslim nations to provide fingerprints to the US government upon arrival in the country and to register with INS after 30 days. Otherwise lawful visitors who failed to provide fingerprints or to register with the INS could be fined or deported.
During Spring 2004 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) once again decided to round up Arabs and Muslims for “voluntary” interviews. On May 28 it was revealed that the Justice Department had targeted 5,000 Muslims and Arabs for questioning, questioning based on religion and ethnicity, and not on individualized criminal suspicion (American Civil Liberties Union ).
The social interaction response to the Al Qaeda attacks involved nationwide violence against Arabs and Muslims. The FBI records hate crimes by race, ethnicity/national origin (principally, Hispanic or Non-Hispanic), religion, sexual orientation, and disability status. Table 2 presents total hate crimes by year, 1996 - 2011, as well as hate crimes against selected groups: whites, blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Catholics, and Muslims2. The FBI does not record hate crimes against Arabs, Sikhs, Hindus, or others that Americans often mistake for Arabs or Muslims. Hence, the hate crimes recorded in Table 2 under-represent the extent of hate crimes directed at Arab and Islamic Americans.
During 1996 - 2011 hate crimes more or less consistently trended downward for whites and blacks. Hate crimes against whites were 12.64% of all hate crimes in 1996 and 8.11% of all hate crimes in 2011, with total hate crimes against whites dropping from 1106 to 504. Similarly, hate crimes against African Americans decreased from 42% of all hate crimes to 33% of all hate crimes, with total hate crimes dropping from 3674 to 2076. For blacks and whites, there were only very minor increases in hate crimes between 2000 and 2001; in each case, the percentage relative to the total declined. Hate crimes against Jews have more or less remained constant during 1996 - 2011, staying near 12 - 13% of the annual total but declining from 14% of the total in 2000 to 11% during 2001. Hate crimes against Hispanics and Catholics followed a similar pattern; indeed, hate crimes against Catholics fell from 0.70% of the total in 2000 to 0.39% in 2001.
By contrast, anti-Islamic hate crimes sky-rocketed in 2001 and have remained high ever since. During 1996-2000, anti-Islamic hate crimes were about 1/3 of 1% of all hate crimes. But, for the year 2001 this number rose to nearly 5%. Total anti-Islamic hate crimes rose from nearly 30 per year to 481 for 2001. Anti-Islamic hate crimes declined from 4.95% of the total in 2001 to 2.08% in 2002, but anti-Islamic hate crimes have shown no signs of returning to pre-9/11 levels.
Post-9/11, there has been an increase in labor market discrimination against Arabs, Muslims, and persons of Middle-Eastern descent, especially during the years immediately following the attacks. Davila and Mora () examine the earnings of men in the US, ages 25-40 with ancestral origins in Arab countries, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. All men included in their sample worked at least 20 hours per week and at least 32 weeks per year. The earnings of the Arab and Islamic American males are compared to the earnings of US born Non-Hispanic white males. Comparing the change in relative earnings between 2000 and 2002, they find that the Middle Eastern Arab earnings differential moves from -0.152 log points for 2000 to -0.584 log points for 2002, a statistically significant and substantively large decline of 0.432 log points. The African Arab differential is -0.436 log points for 2000 and -0.484 log points for 2002, a statistically insignificant and small decline of 0.048 log points. The Other (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran) differential is -0.139 log points for 2000 and -0.429 log points for 2002, a statistically significant and substantively large decline of 0.290 log points. Further, Davila and Mora report that a state’s Arab population density had no statistically significant effect on Middle Eastern Arab earnings differential in 2000, but it did have a statistically significant and substantively large effect in 2002. Arab concentration had no statistically significant effect on either the African Arab coefficient or the Other coefficient. Finally, Davila and Mora find that the male earnings decline was “fairly symmetrical for workers” at all deciles of the earnings distribution.
Rabby and Rodgers () also find deteriorating wage and employment effects for Arab and Muslim males in their examination of post-9/11 labor market discrimination. They find no wage and employment effects for women. However, Rabby and Rodgers find that during 1999-2002, the relative natural log of wages for Arab and Muslim men declined by 0.142 points. During 1999-2004, the relative natural log of wages for Arab and Muslims declined by 0.09 points, though this difference had only a 10% level of significance. Finally, for 1999-2004, Arab and Muslim males 16 - 25 years of age had a relative employment decline of 0.379 points.
For their sample of males 21-54 years of age, Kaushal et al. () find no stigmitization effect for male employment or hours worked3. However, there is a negative effect for male log of hourly earnings (9 - 12%) and log weekly wages (11 - 14%). Within the first 12 months after September 11, the male hourly wage and weekly wage effects are negative, significant, and substantively large (9 - 11%). The effects are of the same magnitudes for 13-24 and 25-36 months after the attack but are not significant. Comparing September 2004 with September 1997, there is a statistically significant weekly wage decline of 9% for men.
Kaushal, et al. report that there are no statistically significant differences in results when the data are restricted to foreign born Arabs and Muslims. However, there are statistically significant different effects when the sample is separated by men living in above median intolerance states (high hate crime incidence) versus living in below median intolerance states (low hate crime incidence). The negative wage effect increases by 11% in high intolerance states, while the weekly earnings effect increases by 13-14%. The wage effect is 6-7% in low intolerance states, while the weekly earnings effect is 7-8%. But, the results for the low intolerance states are not statistically significant.
Kaushal et al. () find that the size and significance of wage effects are robust to using hate crimes per Arab and Muslim population or hate crimes per total population. In states with high hate crimes, September 11 is associated with a 11% reduction in the wages of Arab and Islamic men though it is associated with a 6-9% wage reduction in states with a low incidence of hate crimes. However, the difference in these point estimates is not significant. They also report evidence of a post-9/11 decline in intrastate migration of Arab and Muslim men. Nevertheless, September 11 is not associated with interstate moves from high hate crimes states to low hate crime states.
Gould and Klor () use per capita hate crimes, that is, total hate crimes against Muslims relative to the size of the Arab and Islamic population in a state during a given year, to examine changes in measures of assimilation among the US Arab and Islamic population. Gould and Klor argue that hate crimes increase the cost of assimilation, while increasing the return to investing in social capital within an Arab or Islamic American’s own community. These incentives lower rates of assimilation.
Consider inter-marriage as one indicator of assimilation, which is defined as the fraction of Arab and Islamic Americans married to someone who does not have ancestral origins in a predominately Muslim country. Gould and Klor find that post-9/11 mean per capita hate crimes reduce Arab and Islamic inter-marriage by 8.3% and 13.1% for men and women, respectively, relative to their respective means in 20004.
Collectively considered, there is evidence of extraordinary stigmatization of Arab and Islamic Americans during the post-9/11 period. Aggressive federal policies made young Arab and Islamic males subject to strong criminal suspicion and adverse legal treatment. Social interactions displayed a discrete and large scale increase in intolerance as anti-Muslim hate crimes rose to historical highs and never fully returned to pre-9/11 levels. After the attacks of September 11, 2001 there was an increase in the wage penalty associated with being a person of Arab and Islamic descent, along with evidence of some deterioration in employment among very young males and evidence that Arab and Islamic men were pushed out of high wage industries into low wage industries. These outcomes suggest the formation of an economy with a lower payoff to acculturation for Arab and Islamic Americans: in comparison to the pre-9/11 era, Arab and Islamic Americans were less likely to be accepted as white and were less likely to opt for a white identity rather than a non-white identity.