Working Paper No. 603

Do Oppositional Identities Reduce Employment for Ethnic Minorities?

Published: October 30, 2003; revised November 27 2003Pages: 41Keywords: Ethnic Minorities; Identity; Social Networks; White's NormJEL-codes: J15

Do Oppositional Identities Reduce Employment for Ethnic Minorities? Harminder Battu, McDonald Mwale and Yves Zenou


We develop a model in which non-white individuals are defined with respect to their social environment (family, friends, neighbors) and their attachments to their culture of origin (religion, language), and in which jobs are mainly found through social networks. We find that, depending on how strong they are linked to their culture of origin, non-whites choose to adopt "oppositional" identities since some individuals may identify with the dominant culture (status seekers) and others may reject that culture (conformists), even if it implies adverse labor market outcomes. We then test this model using a unique data set that contains extensive information on various issues surrounding ethnic identity and preferences in Britain. We find that the social environment of individuals has a strong influence on their identity choice. We also find that those non-whites who have preferences that accord with being a conformist do experience an employment penalty.

 

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union in a Changing World Order

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This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

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