What are the political consequences of large-scale migration and resulting religious heterogeneity? How does exposure to individuals from a different denomination affect social norms? We exploit a quasi-exogenous increase in denominational diversity that resulted from the resettlement of 1.9 million German expellees from Central and Eastern Europe to predominantly rural communities in Bavaria after WWII. At over 20 percent of the population, the expellees fundamentally transformed the denominational makeup of localities that had been homogeneous for four centuries. Using an original dataset covering over 2,000 municipalities, we show that denominational diversity reduced church attendance, led to the resignation of church membership, and increased support for progressive political parties and female political participation. Supplementing our analysis with individual-level survey data, we show that individuals who live in communities diversified by expellee arrival today hold more progressive gender norms and are more accepting of homosexuality and euthanasia. Our analysis sheds new light on the implications of large-scale migration and religious diversity for social change.
About the author
Volha Charnysh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at MIT and an Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University. She received her Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University in May 2017. Her book, Uprooted: How post-WWII Population Transfers Remade Europe (under contract), examines the long-run effects of forced migration in the aftermath of World War II in Poland and West Germany. Her other work examines the legacies of wartime violence and repression and the role of identity in state-building and economic development. Her academic work has appeared or is forthcoming in the American Political Science Review, British Journal of Political Science, Annual Review of Political Science, World Politics, Comparative Political Studies, and other journals.