NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Immigrant Group Size and Political Mobilization: Evidence from European Migration to the United States

Allison Shertzer

NBER Working Paper No. 18827
Issued in February 2013
NBER Program(s):   DAE   POL

Immigration to democratic nations generates new groups of potential voters. This paper investigates how the electorate share of immigrant groups influences their decision to become politically mobilized. I consider two mechanisms through which electorate share could impact an immigrant’s likelihood of voting: the contestability of local elections and the existence of ethnic social networks that facilitate political organization. Using newly assembled data on ethnic enclaves in American cities in the early twentieth century, I show immigrants were more likely to mobilize politically as their share of the local electorate grew larger, but only in places where the Democratic Party likely needed to their vote to win elections and where immigrants had established enclaves. I also consider the shape of the electorate share effect, showing it is nonlinear and in particular tapers off for groups larger than one fifth of the local electorate.

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This paper was revised on March 31, 2014

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18827

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