News Release

Cultural integration and immigrant discrimination

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study explores links between social norms, religious differences, and discrimination against immigrants. Policymakers attempt to improve cultural integration of immigrants to reduce conflict between native and immigrant groups by forging a common set of rules and norms. To determine whether a shared understanding of social norms signaled by voluntary adherence to norms can reduce immigrant discrimination, Nicholas Sambanis and colleagues conducted an experiment in 28 cities across Germany in which 7,142 train commuters were placed in a situation in which a woman needed assistance in picking up her belongings after dropping them on the platform. The authors measured assistance to the woman after varying her ethnic and religious characteristics and her commitment to avoid littering. Although no widespread discrimination was detected due to ethnoracial differences, such as skin color, the authors found significant discrimination against Muslim women. Though it was not eliminated, discrimination declined when the Muslim woman signaled her respect for social norms by asking a German man who littered to pick up his trash. The results suggest that although a shared understanding of norms can reduce discrimination and improve cooperation between natives and immigrants, intergroup religious differences constrain the depth of cultural integration, according to the authors.


Article #18-20146: "Parochialism, social norms, and discriminationagainst immigrants," by Donghyun Danny Choi, Mathias Poertner, and Nicholas Sambanis.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nicholas Sambanis, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; tel: 202-415-8138; email: <>

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