BREAD Working Paper No. 524, October 2017

Unity in Diversity? How Intergroup Contact Can Foster Nation Building

Samuel Bazzi, Arya Gaduh, Alexander Rothenberg, Maisy Wong


Ethnic divisions complicate nation building, but little is known about how to mitigate these divisions. We use one of history’s largest resettlement programs to show how intergroup contact affects long-run integration. In the 1980s, the Indonesian government relocated two million migrants into hundreds of new communities to encourage interethnic mixing. Two decades later, more diverse communities exhibit deeper integration, as reflected in language use and intergroup marriage. Endogenous sorting across communities cannot explain these effects. Rather, initial conditions, including residential segregation, political and economic competition, and linguistic differences influence which diverse communities integrate. These findings contribute lessons for resettlement policy.

Keywords: Diversity, Identity, Language, Cultural Change, Migration, Nation Building

JEL classification codes: D02, D71, J15, O15, R23

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