Anne-Sofie Beck Knudsen, University of Copenhagen

"Those Who Stayed: Individualism, Self-Selection and Cultural Change during the Age of Mass Migration"

Abstract:
This paper examines the joint evolution of emigration and individualism in Scandinavia during the Age of Mass Migration (1850-1920). A long-standing hypothesis holds that people of a stronger individualistic mindset are more likely to migrate as they suffer lower costs of abandoning existing social networks. Building on this hypothesis, I propose a theory of cultural change where migrant self-selection generates a relative push away from individualism, and towards collectivism, in migrant-sending locations through a combination of initial distributional effects and channels of intergenerational cultural transmission. Due to the interdependent relationship between emigration and individualism, emigration is furthermore associated with cultural convergence across subnational locations. I combine various sources of empirical data, including historical population census records and passenger lists of emigrants, and test the relevant elements of the proposed theory at the individual and subnational district level, and in the short and long run. Together, the empirical results suggest that individualists were more likely to migrate than collectivists, and that the Scandinavian countries would have been considerably more individualistic and culturally diverse, had emigration not taken place.

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