Skip to main content Accessibility help

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,


Hide All

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:



Hide All
Abramitzky, Ran, Boustan, Leah Platt, and Eriksson, Katherine. 2014. “A Nation of Immigrants: Assimilation and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration.” Journal of Political Economy 122 (3): 467717.
Abramitzky, Ran, Boustan, Leah Platt, and Eriksson, Katherine. 2016. “Cultural Assimilation During the Two Ages of Mass Migration.” Working Paper, Stanford University.
Adida, Claire L., Laitin, David D., and Valfort, Marie-Anne. 2014. “Muslims in France: Identifying a Discriminatory Equilibrium.” Journal of Population Economics 27 (4): 1039–86.
Algan, Yann, Mayer, Thierry, and Thoenig, Mathias. 2013. The Economic Incentives of Cultural Transmission: Spatial Evidence from Naming Patterns across France. CEPR Discussion Papers 9416.
Arrow, Kenneth J. 1973. “The Theory of Discrimination.” In Discrimination in Labor Markets, eds. Ashenfelter, Orley and Rees, Albert. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 333.
Bandiera, Oriana, Rasul, Imran, and Viarengo, Martina. 2013. “The Making of Modern America: Migratory Flows in the Age of Mass Migration.” Journal of Development Economics 102: 2347.
Becker, Gary S. 1957. The Economics of Discrimination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bertrand, Marianne, and Mullainathan, Sendhil. 2004. “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” The American Economic Review 94 (4): 9911013.
Biavaschi, Costanza, Giulietti, Corrado, and Siddique, Zahra. 2017. “The Economic Pay-Off of Name Americanization.” Journal of Labor Economics 35 (4): 1089–116.
Bisin, Alberto, Patacchini, Eleonora, Verdier, Thierry, and Zenou, Yves. 2011. “Formation and Persistence of Oppositional Identities.” European Economic Review 55 (8): 1046–71.
Brader, Ted, Valentino, Nicholas A, and Suhay, Elizabeth. 2008. “What Triggers Public Opposition to Immigration? Anxiety, Group Cues, and Immigration Threat.” American Journal of Political Science 52 (4): 959–78.
Butler, Daniel M., and Broockman, David E.. 2011. “Do Politicians Racially Discriminate against Constituents? A Field Experiment on State Legislators.” American Journal of Political Science 55 (3): 463–77.
Chandra, Kanchan. 2001. “Cumulative Findings in the Study of Ethnic Politics.” APSA-CP 12 (1): 711.
Cho, Wendy K. Tam, , James G.Gimpel, , and Tony, Wu. 2006. “Clarifying the Role of SES in Political Participation: Policy Threat and Arab American Mobilization.” The Journal of Politics 68 (4): 977–91.
Coate, Steven, and Loury, Glenn. 1993. “Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?The American Economic Review 83 (5): 1220–40.
Conzen, Cathleen Neils. 1980. “Germans.” In Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, eds. Thernstrom, Stephan, Orlov, Ann, and Handlin, Oscar. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 423.
Cook, Lisa D., Logan, Trevon D., and Parman, John M.. 2014. “Distinctively Black Names in the American Past.” Explorations in Economic History 53: 6482.
Dancygier, Rafaela M., Lindgren, Karl-Oskar, Oskarsson, Sven, and Vernby, Kåre. 2015. “Why Are Immigrants Underrepresented in Politics? Evidence from Sweden.” American Political Science Review 109 (4): 703–24.
Dargent, Claude. 2003. “Les musulmans déclarés en France: affirmation religieuse, subordination sociale et progressisme politique.” Les cahiers du Cevipof 34: 242.
Dávila, Alberto, and Mora, Marie. 2005. “Changes in the Earnings of Arab Men in the US between 2000 and 2002.” Journal of Population Economics 18 (4): 587601.
DeSipio, Louis. 2002. Immigrant Organizing, Civic Outcomes: Civic Engagement, Political Activity, National Attachment, and Identity in Latino Immigrant Communities. Paper No. 02-08. Center for the Study of Democracy.∼jag/POL596A/desipioimmig.pdf.
Dinas, Elias, Matakos, Konstantinos, Xefteris, Dimitrios, and Hangartner, Dominik. 2019. “Waking up the Golden Dawn: Does Exposure to the Refugee Crisis Increase Support for Extreme-Right Parties?Political Analysis 111. doi:10.1017/pan.2018.48.
Duguet, Emmanuel, Leandri, Noam, L’Horty, Yannick, and Petit, Pascale. 2010. “Are Young French Jobseekers of Ethnic Immigrant Origin Discriminated against? A Controlled Experiment in the Paris Area.” Annals of Economics and Statistics 99 (100): 187215.
Eguia, Jon X. 2017. “Discrimination and Assimilation at School.” Journal of Public Economics 156: 4858.
Fearon, James D. 2013. “Strategic Dynamics of Social Mimicry.” Working Paper, Stanford University.
Fearon, James D., and Laitin, David D.. 1996. “Explaining Interethnic Cooperation.” American Political Science Review 90 (4): 715–35.
Fix, Michael, and Turner, Margery Austin. 1998. A National Report Card on Discrimination in America: The Role of Testing. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.
Fouka, Vasiliki. 2018. Backlash: The Unintended Eeffects of Language Prohibition in US Schools after World War I. Working Paper, Stanford University.
Fryer, Roland G., and Levitt, Steven D.. 2004. “The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 119 (3): 767805.
Fuegen, Kathleen, and Biernat, Monica. 2000. “Defining Discrimination in the Personal/Group Discrimination Discrepancy.” Sex Roles 43 (5–6): 285310.
Glidden, William B. 1973. “Internment Camps in America, 1917–1920.” Military Affairs 37 (4): 137–41.
Goldin, Claudia, and Rouse, Cecilia. 2000. “Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians.” The American Economic Review 90 (4): 715–41.
Gómez, Ángel, Morales, J. Francisco, Hart, Sonia, Vásquez, Alexandra, and Swann, William B. Jr. 2011. “Rejected and Excluded Forevermore, but Even More Devoted: Irrevocable Ostracism Intensifies Loyalty to the Group Among Identity-Fused Persons.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 37 (12): 1574–86.
Gould, Eric D., and Klor, Esteban F.. 2016. “The Long-Run Effect of 9/11: Terrorism, Backlash, and the Assimilation of Muslim Immigrants in the West.” The Economic Journal 126 (597): 2064–114.
Greif, Avner, and Tadelis, Steven. 2010. “A Theory of Moral Persistence: Crypto-Morality and Political Legitimacy.” Journal of Comparative Economics 38 (3): 229–44.
Haines, Michael R., and ICPSR. 2010. Historical, Demographic, Economic, and Social Data: The United States, 1790–2002 [Computer file]. ICPSR02896-v3. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political/Social Research [distributor].
Hainmueller, Jens, and Hangartner, Dominik. 2013. “Who Gets a Swiss Passport? A Natural Experiment in Immigrant Discrimination.” American Political Science Review 107 (1): 159–87.
Hainmueller, Jens, Hangartner, Dominik, and Pietrantuono, Giuseppe. 2015. “Naturalization Fosters the Long-Term Political Integration of Immigrants.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (41): 12651–6.
Hainmueller, Jens, Hangartner, Dominik, and Pietrantuono, Giuseppe. 2017. “Catalyst or Crown: Does Naturalization Promote the Long-Term Social Integration of Immigrants?American Political Science Review 111 (2): 256–76.
Hainmueller, Jens, and Hopkins, Daniel J.. 2014. “Public Attitudes toward Immigration.” Annual Review of Political Science 17: 225–49.
Head, Keith, and Mayer, Thierry. 2008. “Detection of Local Interactions from the Spatial Pattern of Names in France.” Journal of Regional Science 48 (1): 6795.
Higham, John. 1998. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Jones-Correa, Michael. 2001. “Under Two Flags: Dual Nationality in Latin America and its Consequences for Naturalization in the United States.” International Migration Review 35 (4): 9971029.
Kazal, Russell. 2004. Becoming Old Stock: The Paradox of German-American Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kuo, Alexander, Malhotra, Neil, and Mo, Cecilia Hyunjung. 2017. “Social Exclusion and Political Identity: The Case of Asian American Partisanship.” The Journal of Politics 79 (1): 1732.
Laitin, David D. 1986. Hegemony and Culture: Politics and Change Among the Yoruba. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Laitin, David D. 1995. “Marginality: A Microperspective.” Rationality and Society 7 (1): 3157.
Laitin, David D. 1998. Identity in Formation: The Russian-Speaking Populations in the Near Abroad. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Lieberson, Stanley. 2000. A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions, and Culture Change. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Luebke, Frederick C. 1974. Bonds of Loyalty: German-Americans and World War I. Urbana: Northern Illinois University Press.
Luebke, Frederick C. 1999. Germans in the New World: Essays in the History of Immigration. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Lyons-Padilla, Sarah, Gelfand, Michele J., Mirahmadi, Hedieh, Farooq, Mehreen, and van Egmond, Marieke. 2015. “Belonging Nowhere: Marginalization & Radicalization Risk Among Muslim Immigrants.” Behavioral Science & Policy 1 (2): 112.
Manning, Alan, and Roy, Sanchari. 2010. “Culture Clash or Culture Club? National Identity in Britain.” The Economic Journal 120 (542): F72F100.
Mill, Roy, and Stein, Luke C. D.. 2016. “Race, Skin Color, and Economic Outcomes in Early Twentieth-Century America.” Working Paper, Arizona State University.
Minnesota Population Center and 2013. IPUMS Restricted Complete Count Data: Version 1.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.
Mitts, Tamar. 2019. “From Isolation to Radicalization: Anti-Muslim Hostility and Support for ISIS in the West.” American Political Science Review 113 (1): 173–94. doi:10.1017/S0003055418000618.
Mohamed, Heather Silber. 2017. The New Americans? Immigration, Protest, and the Politics of Latino Identity. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas.
Moser, Petra. 2012. “Taste-Based Discrimination. Evidence from a Shift in Ethnic Preferences after WWI.” Explorations in Economic History 49 (2): 167–88.
Nagler, Jörg. 1993. “Enemy Aliens in the USA, 1914–1918.” In Minorities in Wartime: National and Racial Groupings in Europe, North America and Australia during the Two World Wars, ed. Panayi, Panikos. Oxford, Providence: Berg Publishers, 191215.
Neeraj, Kaushal, Kaestner, Robert, and Reimers, Cordelia. 2005. “Labor Market Effects of September 11th on Arab and Muslim Residents of the United States.” Journal of Population Economics 18 (4): 587601.
Nix, Emily, and Qian, Nancy. 2015. “The Fluidity of Race: “Passing” in the United States, 1880–1940.” NBER Working Paper 20828.
Oreopoulos, Philip. 2011. “Why Do Skilled Immigrants Struggle in the Labor Market? A Field Experiment with Thirteen Thousand Resumes.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 3 (4): 148–71.
Oskooii, Kassra A. R. 2016. “How Discrimination Impacts Sociopolitical Behavior: A Multidimensional Perspective.” Political Psychology 37 (5): 613–40.
Oskooii, Kassra A. R. 2018. “Perceived Discrimination and Political Behavior.” British Journal of Political Science 126. doi:10.1017/S0007123418000133.
Pantoja, Adrian D., Ramirez, Ricardo, and Segura, Gary M.. 2001. “Citizens by Choice, Voters by Necessity: Patterns in Political Mobilization by Naturalized Latinos.” Political Research Quarterly 54 (4): 729–50.
Phelps, Edmund S. 1972. “The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism.” The American Economic Review 62: 659–61.
Posner, Daniel N. 2005. Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Ruggles, Steven, Genadek, Katie, Goeken, Ronald, Grover, Josiah, and Sobek, Matthew. 2010. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-Readable Database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.
Saperstein, Aliya, and Penner, Andrew M.. 2012. “Racial Fluidity and Inequality in the United States.” American Journal of Sociology 118 (3): 676727.
Schildkraut, Deborah J. 2005. “The Rise and Fall of Political Engagement Among Latinos: The Role of Identity and Perceptions of Discrimination.” Political Behavior 27 (3): 285312.
Sidanius, Jim, Feshbach, Seymour, Levin, Shana, and Pratto, Felicia. 1997. “The Interface between Ethnic and National Attachment: Ethnic Pluralism or Ethnic Dominance?Public Opinion Quarterly 61 (1): 102–33.
Sides, John, and Citrin, Jack. 2007. “European Opinion about Immigration: The Role of Identities, Interests and Information.” British Journal of Political Science 37 (3): 477504.
Sniderman, Paul M., Hagendoorn, Louk, and Prior, Markus. 2004. “Predisposing Factors and Situational Triggers: Exclusionary Reactions to Immigrant Minorities.” American Political Science Review 98 (01): 3549.
Sowell, Thomas. 1996. Migration and Cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Steinmayr, Andreas. 2018. “Contact Matters: Exposure to Refugees and Voting for the Far-Right.” Working Paper, LMU Munich.\WRhODJmZGI.
Taylor, Donald M., Wright, Stephen C., Moghaddam, Fathali M., and Lalonde, Richard N.. 1990. “The Personal/Group Discrimination Discrepancy: Perceiving My Group, but Not Myself, to Be a Target for Discrimination.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 16 (2): 254–62.
Uhlaner, Carole Jean. 1991. “Political Participation and Discrimination: A Comparative Analysis of Asians, Blacks, and Latinos.” In Political Participation and American Democracy, ed. Crotty, William. New York: Greenwood Press, 139–70.
US Department of Labor, Bureau of Naturalization. 1913–1923. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Naturalization to the Secretary of Labor. Washington D.C.: US Department of Labor.
Williams, Kipling D., and Sommer, Kristin L.. 1997. “Social Ostracism by Coworkers: Does Rejection Lead to Loafing or Compensation?Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 23 (7): 693706.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Fouka et al. supplementary material

Supplementary materials

Fouka et al. supplementary material
Fouka et al. supplementary material 1

 PDF (435 KB)
435 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed