We draw a distinction between the social integration and economic assimilation of migrants, and study an interaction between the two. We define social integration as blending into the host country´s society, and economic assimilation as acquisition of human capital that is specific to the host country´s labor market. We show that a non-integrated migrant finds it optimal to acquire a relatively limited quantity of human capital; with fellow migrants constituting his only comparison group, a non-integrated migrant does not have a relative-deprivation-based incentive to close the income gap with the natives. However, when a migrant is made to integrate, his social proximity to the natives exposes him to relative deprivation, which in turn prompts him to form more destination-specific human capital in order to increase his earnings and narrow the income gap with the natives. In this way, social integration becomes a catalyst for economic assimilation.
Assimilation Integration Social proximity Interpersonal comparisons Relative deprivation Human capital formation