Jewish Immigrant Entrepreneurship in New York and London, 1880-1914: Enterprise and Culture

Jewish Immigrant Entrepreneurship in New York and London, 1880-1914: Enterprise and Culture

Jewish Immigrant Entrepreneurship in New York and London, 1880-1914: Enterprise and Culture

Jewish Immigrant Entrepreneurship in New York and London, 1880-1914: Enterprise and Culture

Synopsis

The controversy over culture and British 20th century economic performance has raged for many decades. Now, through selecting a control population, the link between British and American cultural values and entrepreneurship is finally unearthed. Using new evidence of Jewish immigration, mobility, and assimilation, Andrew Godley shows that despite similar backgrounds and opportunities, the Jews in London were far less entrepreneurial, preferring to remain as workers. However, in America Jews moved en masse into self-employment creating an innovative, dynamic economy while Britain remained stagnant and conservative.

Excerpt

Turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrant journeymen in London's East End were more assimilated than the average immigrant, whom, in terms of background, they otherwise resembled. Because the two streams of immigration to London and New York were so similar, and because so many more Jewish immigrants went into entrepreneurship in New York despite falling profits, this elementary empirical finding carries quite considerable implications.

First, while it seems safe to conclude that the Jewish immigrant journeymen had assimilated more of the host English culture than most, what is less obvious is exactly what that English culture was. Second, if the immigrant journeymen were more assimilated, this confirms that the Jews assimilated host country cultural values. Third, assimilation influenced their labour market activity and with lasting repercussions. Fourth, this process of assimilation and occupational selection may well highlight a more general phenomenon of economic agents responding to more than simple economic forces, a generalisation that could be an important source for reinterpreting British twentieth-century economic performance.

Working-class craft culture in England

The cultural environments the immigrants found themselves in hardly exposed them to any ‘pure’ form of English culture, or, for those in New York, American. New York's Lower East Side and London's East End were hardly representative locales of some broader American and British cultures. the immigrants settled into very specific environments and so encountered very particular forms of native culture.

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