July 2008

IZA DP No. 3591: Ethnicity, Assimilation and Harassment in the Labor Market

published in: Research in Labor Economics, 29, 2009, 67-88

We often observe minority ethnic groups at a disadvantage relative to the majority. Why is this and what can be done about it? Efforts made to assimilate, and time, are two elements working to bring the minority into line with the majority. A third element, the degree to which the majority welcomes the minority, also plays a role. We develop a simple theoretical model useful for examining the consequences for assimilation and harassment of growth in the minority population, time, and the role of political institutions. Over time, conflicts develop within the minority group as members exhibit different interests in assimilating and in maintaining their cultural identity. We discuss how this affects the minority’s position over time and the influence of public policy.