Anne Sofie Beck Knudsen, Harvard University (Job Market Seminar)

"Those Who Stayed: Selection and Cultural Change during the Age of Mass Migration"


This paper studies the cultural causes and consequences of mass emigration from Scandinavia in the 19th century. I test the hypothesis that people with individualistic traits were more likely to emigrate, because they faced lower costs of leaving established social networks behind. 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 was weaker under circumstances that reduced the social costs of emigration. This was the case with larger migration networks abroad, and in situations where people emigrated collectively. 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 measures of actual cultural change over the medium and long run.

Contact person: Jeanet Sinding Bentzen