The Effect of 9/11 on Immigrants’ Ethnic Identity and Employment: Evidence from Germany

Isaure Delaporte

by Isaure Delaporte, University of Kent. Discussion paper KDPE 1906, June 2019.

Non-technical summary:

A growing concern in Western countries is the fact that immigrants might adopt oppositional identities. An oppositional identity is expressed by the rejection of the accepted norms of the majority group. Oppositional identities often produce significant economic and social conflicts. Besides, identity is expected to affect the economic outcomes of immigrants. To facilitate the integration of migrants, more research needs to be carried out to identify the factors that influence the identity choice of the migrants and their employment outcomes.

This study takes a step in this direction by investigating the effect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the process of identity formation and the employment outcomes of Muslim immigrants. The effect of the 9/11 islamist terrorist attacks on ethnic identity is unclear. On the one hand, the terrorist attacks induced a backlash against the Muslim community, raising their costs of assimilation in the host country. This would explain that Muslim immigrants increase their minority identity, i.e. their identification with the country of origin. On the other hand, Muslim immigrants may engage in counter-stereotypic behaviour and thus reinforce their identification
with the majority group in an effort to appear as different from their stigmatized group.

The effect of the terrorist attacks on employment is as well unclear. On the one hand, the 9/11 attacks lead to an increase in labour market discrimination toward Muslims, affecting negatively their performance in the host labour market. On the other hand, by widening social distance between natives and the Muslim community, the 9/11 attacks might have pushed Muslim immigrants to rely more on co-ethnics. In this case, stronger ethnic ties may improve Muslims’ labour market outcomes. Lastly, a change in the migrant’s ethnic identity might explained the effect of the attacks on the employment outcomes. Indeed, holding a strong minority identity
induces an employment penalty while being close to the majority group improves the individual’s employment outcomes.

To shed light on these questions, this paper focuses on the case of Turkish immigrants in Germany. Using longitudinal data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, this study compares the outcomes of Turkish immigrants with non-Turkish immigrants before and after September 11, 2001. The results show that Turks have adopted more extreme identities following the 9/11 terror attacks: they are more likely to feel completely German; they are less likely to feel in some respects Turkish whereas they are more likely to feel mostly Turkish. However, there is no significant impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Turks’ employment outcomes relative to non-Turks.

You can download the complete paper here.