Should Immigrants Culturally Assimilate or Preserve Their Own Culture? Host-society Natives' Beliefs and the Longevity of National Identity

Peter Grajzl (Washington and Lee University)
Jonathan Eastwood (Washington and Lee University)
Valentina Dimitrova-Grajzl (Virginia Military Institute)

Abstract: We develop and empirically test a theory concerning host-society natives' beliefs about whether immigrants should culturally assimilate into the host society or preserve their own cultural norms. We argue that when national identity is a source of intrinsic utility, the longevity of national identity influences a national identity's perceived resilience to an ostensible immigrant threat and, thus, affects natives' beliefs about the need for immigrants' cultural assimilation. Empirical evidence based on data from countries of wider Europe supports our theory. An expert survey-based measure of the longevity of national identity, first, exhibits a robustly negative effect on the strength of natives' preferences in favor of immigrants' cultural assimilation and, second, is an important contextual moderating variable that shapes the effect of individual-level characteristics on their beliefs. Thus, host-society natives' beliefs about the necessity of immigrants' cultural assimilation versus accommodation of cultural diversity reflect a historically-rooted sense of national identity.