Efforts for cultural assimilation and graduate school admissions: academic pursuits versus geographic preferences?

Dafeng Xu, Cornell University

Using social networking data, this paper studies the effect of efforts for cultural assimilation on Chinese students' school choices when applying for U.S. graduate schools. I use English-name usage to measure assimilation efforts among Chinese college students. The identification strategy is based on a natural experiment: the difficulty of pronouncing the original Chinese name in English is an exogenous predictor of English-name usage. I find that, overall, there is no effect of English-name usage on the tier of the graduate school attended. However, English-name usage affects the interaction between the school tier and geographic characteristics: English-name usage is positively associated with attendance of top-tier schools in areas that are traditionally ``less chosen'' by Asian immigrants, which are defined based on local demographic characteristics. The results suggest the possible role of cultural assimilation in making joint school-location choices when students take both academic pursuits and geographic preferences into consideration.

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 Presented in Session 27. Migrant assimilation