Autoacculturation and Threshold Earning

This article argues that culture affects productivity and therefore income-maximizing immigrants will engage in autoacculturation, which is considered to be a preference for native values over values from the immigrant’s homeland. In contrast, threshold earners are expected to engage a lower degree of acculturation.

If true, we should expect threshold earners to be more culturally imperialistic while income-maximizing immigrants are expected to be more convertible. A following question then becomes whether such individuals are predictably distinguishable on pre-migration observables. An additional question is on whether threshold earners, while relatively less given to autoacculturation, are also absolutely unlikely to engage in the activity. These two later questions are interesting but not addressed in this article.

One important question is on whether or not people are actually threshold actors. I have no idea. Here’s a related paper which was cited a few hundred times although there is a much larger literature which I haven’t investigated. This article takes the threshold hypothesis as theoretically plausible. We might also consider these threshold actors to be actors with an income bliss point, rather than a desired threshold. The logic for the purposes of this article is the same: They do not have insatiable demand for income, in contrast to the income-maximizing type of actor.

Another point is that some individuals may be threshold earners, but they may never obtain income large enough to satisfy the threshold. These individuals effectively behave as if they were income maximizing. By the same token, income maximizing individuals might be hypothesized as individuals with very large thresholds. The economic distinction applies to thresholds which are obtained at some point in time.

The theory is straightforward: Given two kinds of agents, suppose both agents obtain income which is a function of acculturation. After some time k, threshold earners will no longer demand additional income and will face a reduced incentive to obtain additional quantities of acculturation. The portion of acculturation which they are able to choose from, of course, is autoacculturation. They will continue to experience some degree non-demanded acculturation simply by living in a given society. Income-maximizing immigrants will continue to demand high levels of acculturation.

An important note: Demand for autoacculturation occurs due to expected future earnings in this model. The upshot is that autoacculturation effects are inhibited by temporary immigration for work, school, and so on, while permanent residency will cause better acculturation. This is a case of reverse causality compared to the typical story which is that certain foreigners are attracted to our national values and therefore seek to become permanent residents. In contrast, autoacculturation effects suggest that becoming a resident causes increased demand for residency.

Is acculturation a plausible factor of productivity? Yes, in ways both obvious and not obvious:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Coworker relationships
  3. Schedule coordination
  4. Weekly and annual holidays: Religious days and cultural vacation, eg, for
  5. Time of day coordination: Think 9-to-5 work schedule vs a schedule including a siesta, or day shift to night shift switching costs for the job hopper.
  6. Physical acculturation, eg getting used to in-office or outside temperatures, weather, commuting possibilities, etc
  7. Other ways.
    1. That would make this a collectively exhaustive and categorically certain list 😉
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