NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Ricardo Dahis

Northwestern University
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Evanston, IL 60208

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Institutional Affiliation: Northwestern University

NBER Working Papers and Publications

November 2019Choosing Racial Identity in the United States, 1880-1940
with Emily Nix, Nancy Qian: w26465
This paper documents that a large number of African American men experienced a change in racial identity to white during 1880 to 1940, while analogous changes were negligible for other races. We provide descriptive evidence that is consistent with the conventional wisdom that “passing” for white was a response to severe discrimination, and came at great personal cost. The findings suggest that contrary to traditional economic thinking, racial identity is neither entirely exogenous nor fixed over the lifetime, and responds to incentives.
 
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