Cultural Distance and the US Immigrant–Trade Link


  • The authors are grateful to an anonymous referee for several helpful comments and suggestions.


Using data from the World and the European Values Surveys, we calculate cultural distances between the US and 54 immigrant home countries and examine the influences of cultural distance and immigrant populations on US imports from and exports to immigrants’ home countries during the years 1997–2004. Our study indicates that, for both US imports and exports, the trade-enhancing effect of immigrants partially offsets the trade-inhibiting effect of cultural distance. Further, decomposing our measure of cultural distance into two component dimensions and revisiting the immigrant–trade relationship, we find significant variation in the extent to which immigrants counter the trade-inhibiting influences of the underlying dimensions of culture for both US imports and exports. Our findings have the implication that by countering the trade-inhibiting influences of cultural differences between their home and host countries, immigrants exert pro-development effects.