Highlights 2021

WP 21/02

Rising international migration flows have sparked a heated debate on the effects of immigrants in host societies. Concerns over the effects of immigration are often linked to religion. Although the religious groups that trigger natives’ hostile reactions may differ across time and space, the current animosity is not a new phenomenon. In fact, between 1850 and 1920, when more than 30 million Europeans moved to the United States during the Age of Mass Migration, Catholic immigrants led to similar, hostile reactions. In "Faith and Assimilation: Italian Immigrants in the US", Stefano Gagliarducci and Marco Tabellini focus on the arrival of Italian Catholic churches in the US between 1900 and 1920, combining newly collected Catholic directories on the presence of Italian churches across years and counties with the full count US Census of Population. They find that Italian churches reduced the social assimilation of Italian immigrants, lowering intermarriage rates and increasing ethnic residential segregation. This result does not seem to be explained by either lower effort exerted by immigrants to "fit in'' the American society or increased desire to vertically transmit national culture. Instead, they provide evidence for other two, non-mutually exclusive, mechanisms. First, Italian churches raised the frequency of interactions among fellow Italians, likely generating peer effects and reducing contact with other groups. Second, they increased the salience of the immigrant community among natives, thereby triggering backlash and discrimination.

WP 21/01

In most households, “money chores” such as financial planning and investing are often allocated to the male spouse. In "From Patriarchy to Partnership: Gender Equality and Household Finance", Luigi Guiso and Luana Zaccaria ask whether compliance with this gender norm can induce sub-optimal financial choices, affecting households' welfare.They estimate a novel measure of gender norms on intra-household financial decision making by leveraging dramatic variation across Italian cohorts and regions in the gender of the spouse in charge of household finances that occurred over the last 30 years. Using these estimates to identify the effects of gender parity on household financial decisions, they find that more egalitarian norms increase household participation in financial markets, equity holdings and asset diversification. Egalitarian couples earn higher returns on investments which can raise wealth at retirement up to 15% compared to couples that strictly comply with patriarchal norms. This evidence suggests that gender roles in household financial management can have large economic costs. Consistent with this view, they show that patriarchal norms began receding in the early 1990s, when a pension reform made it too costly to comply with traditional roles.

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