Economics serving society

Socialization networks and the transmission of interethnic attitudes

Fabrizio Panebianco

JPEG - 59.5 kb

Interethnic attitudes play an increasingly important role in influencing social interactions and economic choices in our societies. For example, the attitudes people have towards immigrants of different ethnicities can shape the way in which policy makers manage migration flows. Morevoer, migration, integration and assimilation being important issues in the political debate, the way in which interethnic attitudes change is likely to affect the support for anti-immigration vs integrationist parties. Interethnic attitudes also play a role in shaping social and economic outcomes. For example, there is evidence of surname-based discrimination in job hiring processes; interethnic attitudes impact residential choices and school segregation with long term effects on professional and income inequalities. Some of these effects are driven by the fact that, when forming his/her own social ties, each person generally prefers being close with agents of his own type ( a phenomenon known as homophily).
To gain a better understanding of these phenomena, this paper examines the forces behind changes in, and the evolution of, interethnic attitudes. In particular, it focuses on three issues, with a theoretical perspective: first, the intergenerational transmission of interethnic attitude; second, the interplay between interethnic attitudes and the network of social influences to which agents are exposed; and third, the possible patterns of integration. In particular, Fabrizio Panebianco examines the dynamics of interethnic attitudes in a framework of intergenerational transmission, where children are exposed to parental (vertical) and non-parental (oblique) socializations. Under very general conditions, it is just the structure of the oblique socialization interactions that determines the long run shape of interethnic attitudes. In particular, it is shown that agents use mainly emulation of others’ attitudes to form their own attitudes or tend to reciprocate the attitudes others have towards them (or both). Which attitude formation mechanisms is used determines whether we would observe, in the long run, a hierarchy in interethnic attitudes or an integration outcome. In the case in which a hierarchy appears, it is possible to rank the attitudes showing which ethnic group is considered “better” by the members of some other ethnic groups. Then, this theory is used to study the case of the United States, by applying socialization mechanisms discussed in previous sociological studies to the model in order to findthe possible attitudes ranking that can emerge in the generations to come. In particular for the US case the paper observes a widespread homogeneization of attitudes towards any minority, and better attitudes towards white community. This outcome, that can contrast with the objective of integrationist policies , can be the result of the absence of reciprocity between Whites and any other minority group in either direction. In this perspective, if this kind of reciprocity mechanism is fostered, then a polarized attitude ranking cannot be present in the long run and an integration outcome can be obtained. The policymaker, thus, should consider also an intervention in order to shape the chances of people of different ethnic groups to be positively influenced by each others to try to induce some attitudes ranking considered more preferable.
Original title of the article: Socialization networks and the transmission of interethnic attitudes
Published in : Journal of Economic Theory, vol. 150, Pages 583–610 - Mars 2014
Download at :
© -