Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Choosing Your Ethnicity: A Longitudinal Analysis of Ethnic Identity Choice and Intra-Individual Ethnicity Change

Rademakers, Robbert and van Hoorn, Andre (2020): Choosing Your Ethnicity: A Longitudinal Analysis of Ethnic Identity Choice and Intra-Individual Ethnicity Change.

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Abstract

This paper studies individuals’ possible choice to forgo their ancestral ethnicity and adopt a specific new ethnicity. We first use individual-level panel data for Indonesia as well as other countries (e.g., the U.S.) to document the pervasiveness of intra-individual ethnicity change and its coincidence with major life events, particularly, interethnic marriage. Next, we focus on individuals who have intermarried and exploit variation in deep-rooted community-level norms on matrilocality (co-residence with the wife’s family) to identify how differences in expected costs and benefits of ethnicity change causally affect newlyweds’ choice to adopt a specific ethnicity (i.e., their spouses’ ethnicity) or not. Results obtained using a three-wave panel comprising more than 13,000 Indonesians confirm the expected effect of matrilocality, as newly intermarried men (women) are significantly more (less) likely to adopt their spouses’ ethnicity when the couple lives in a matrilocal community compared to a non-matrilocal one. Because ethnicity change is a means to fit in, important implication of our findings is that in many countries key statistics on ethnic fractionalization and segregation are severely inflated.

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