Dynamics of Immigrant Assimilation: Lessons from Immigrants' Trust

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Journal of Economic Studies


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the dynamics and persistence of interpersonal trust among immigrants in the USA. More specifically, the authors investigate the association between the levels of trust of US immigrants and the levels of trust in their home countries across different cohorts and generations of immigrants. Design/methodology/approach – In order to quantify the extent of this relationship, the authors use two large sets of survey data, the General Social Survey and the World Value Survey, to construct the trust of immigrants in the USA and their levels of trust in their country of origin. The final sample size for the immigrants’ trust is 27,531 observations. Findings – The examination of the two trust variables at different levels and for different cohorts show that there is an association between the levels of US immigrants’ trust and the levels of trust in the country of origin, suggesting that immigrants bring their culture with them and transmit it to the next generation. However, this association differs across various cohorts and generations of immigrants. The transmission of trust is strong in the second generation but becomes weaker in the third generation and seems to disappear in the fourth generation. Social implications – Empirical estimates of how long the cultural traits embodied in a new immigrant are sustained in the newly adopted country are essential to the appraisal of the current apparent segregation of immigrants in the USA. Originality/value – This paper focuses on the under-researched area of the dynamic properties of immigrants’ trust by using large data sets from social surveys. The authors examine this cultural assimilation across different cohorts and generations.