Those Who Stayed: Selection and Cultural Change during the Age of Mass Migration
JOB MARKET PAPER, November 2019
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This paper studies the cultural causes and consequences of emigration in Scandinavia during the Age of Mass Migration (1850-1920). I test the hypothesis that people with individualistic traits faced a lower cost of leaving established social networks behind and were thus more likely to emigrate. Data from population censuses and passenger lists confirm this hypothesis. Children who grew up in households with nonconformist naming practices, nuclear family structures, and weak ties to parents’ birthplaces were on average more likely to emigrate later in life. Selection weakened as emigration networks abroad grew, and more collectivist emigrants emigrated together and settled in the same locations. Based on these findings, I expect emigration to generate cultural change towards reduced individualism in migrant-sending locations through a combination of initial compositional effects and intergenerational cultural transmission. This is confirmed in a cross-district setting with cultural indicators in the medium and long run.
Theoretical work has long proposed that cultural traits are passed along from parents to children and influenced by other role models in society. This paper examines the transmission of individualistic cultural traits across and between more than four million North European families that I observe in historical population census records from the period 1703-1910. I find that parents adhere to the cultural values inherited from their childhood homes and pass them on to their own
children. The transmission is not perfect and parents appear to be influenced by the average cultural traits of the surrounding population. I provide evidence of circumstances that strengthen the transmission process, including interfamily characteristics and minority status. This suggests that parents actively socialize their children, but are in possession of limited resources and view socialization by society as a substitute. Findings on marriage, settlement, and fertility patterns support these interpretations.
We document that a high level of natural productivity of the ocean – a rich bounty of the sea – has had a persistently positive impact on economic development: societies inhabited by people who descend from regions with eco-climatic conditions supporting a highly productive ocean are more prosperous today. We argue that an explanation is that a rich bounty of the sea facilitated early coastal settlements, which ultimately created a pre-industrial occupational structure that benefited long term economic development. Specifically, we propose that societies that were more coastally oriented during the pre-industrial era were characterized by a less agrarian occupational structure, and thereby gained more experience in non-agricultural production. In the long run, this produced capabilities that were complementary to industrialization, and allowed for an early take-off to growth.
Work in Progress
“Dangers at Sea and the Rise of Rituals in Fishing Societies ” (with Jeanet Bentzen and Gustav Angeman)
“City growth: The Role of Selective In-Migration” (with Carl-Johan Dalgaard and Kerstin Enflo)
“Modernization and the Spread of Individualism” (with Vasiliki Fouka)