Research / BFI Working PaperMar 27, 2018

Historical Antisemitism, Ethnic Specialization, and Financial Development

Historically, European Jews have specialized in financial services while being the victims of antisemitism. We find that the present-day demand for finance is lower in German counties where historical antisemitism was higher, compared to otherwise similar counties. Households in counties with high historical antisemitism have similar saving rates but invest less in stocks, hold lower saving deposits, and are less likely to get a mortgage to finance homeownership after controlling for wealth and a rich set of current and historical covariates. Present-day antisemitism and supply-side forces do not fully explain the results. Households in counties where historical antisemitism was higher distrust the financial sector more – a potential cultural externality of historical antisemitism that reduces wealth accumulation in the long run.

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