Sulin Sardoschau (Humboldt University). Philipp Jaschke (IAB) and Marco Tabellini (Harvard)
Do refugees converge to local culture? Evidence from German regions
This paper studies the adoption of local preferences and norms by refugees over time. Exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in the allocation of refugees across German regions between 2013 and 2018, we examine the path of their convergence towards local culture in the short-run. We assemble a novel data set on values, habits, and preferences for 8,000 refugees, and combine it with information on more than 34,000 locals. We find strong evidence that refugees converge asymptotically to local culture, closing the gap by 5% every year. This effect is stronger for regions that are culturally more distinct from national culture and more internally homogeneous. We also provide evidence that refugees’ cultural convergence is faster where support for anti-immigrant parties is stronger, where there are more hate-crimes against refugees, and where locals are less open to diversity – patterns consistent with what we label the “threat hypothesis”. While threat environments speed up refugees’ efforts to assimilate to local culture, they slow down economic integration.