Dr Zahra Siddique (SPEIR) received the runner-up prize in the P&R Output Prize for her co-authored article ‘The Economic Payoff of Name Americanization’. The article explores why more than 30% of migrants who settled in New York City in the 1920s changed their names, and what economic benefits those name-changes brought about.
The data gave clear results that name-changes resulted in at least a 10% increase in earnings on average. As Zahra notes: “We tried different statistical approaches, and every control you can think of, and continued to find that those who changed their names earned more. Given the statistical methods we have applied to this data we can conclude that the reason they earn more is because they switched their names.”
In the 1920s, it was not illegal to discriminate against someone based on their characteristics. That is not the case today. Nevertheless, various studies have shown that discrimination because of race or culture is still prevalent, despite advances in legislation. Furthermore, migration is increasingly becoming more restricted due to recent political decisions such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US President. “This is an issue of discrimination. As economists we can pin it down and measure it, and then we could also give policy advice on how this discrimination should be tackled.”
The article has been covered widely in the media, including The Economist, the Financial Times, and Slate. More information on the project may be found here.