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How Do Immigrants Respond to Discrimination? The Case of Germans in the US During World War I


I study the effect of taste-based discrimination on the assimilation decisions of immigrant minorities. Do discriminated minority groups increase their assimilation efforts in order to avoid discrimination and public harassment or do they become alienated and retreat in their own communities? I exploit an exogenous shock to native attitudes, anti-Germanism in the United States during World War I, to empirically identify the reactions of German immigrants to increased native hostility. I use two measures of assimilation efforts: naming patterns and petitions for naturalization. In the face of increased discrimination, Germans increase their assimilation investments by Americanizing their own and their children’s names and filing more petitions for US citizenship. These responses are stronger in states that registered higher levels of anti-German hostility, as measured by voting patterns and incidents of violence against Germans.

Corresponding author
*Vasiliki Fouka, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Stanford University,
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I thank Elias Dinas, Steve Haber, David Laitin, Agustina Paglayan, Ken Scheve, Alain Schlaepfer, Tetyana Surovtseva, Hans-Joachim Voth, Gavin Wright and seminar participants at Stanford, Berkeley, the Ohio State University, the Berkeley CPD Faculty/Graduate Working Group and the 2017 ASREC conference in Boston for helpful comments and suggestions. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:

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