Discussion paper

DP18823 Nation-building and mass migration: Evidence from Mandatory Palestine

This paper focuses on the grassroots of nation-building in times of mass migration. We identify the key factors explaining the rise of societal leaders from the scattered, heterogeneous Jewish communities of Mandatory Palestine between 1920 and 1948. Our empirical strategy relies on a new “frontier expansion” algorithm to predict the dynamics of Jewish settlement creation, which we combine with migrant characteristics in a shift-share design to isolate exogenous variation in the local composition of settlers across locations. We find that: (i) leaders that were instrumental to nation-building in the early state of Israel were more likely to come from diverse communities; (ii) these diverse communities experienced fewer Arab civilian casualties during the first Arab-Israeli War; and (iii) these effects are confined to Kibbutzim, i.e., integrated settlements with communal lifestyle. Further evidence suggests that diverse, tightly-knitted communities were indeed facing nation-building challenges at a more local level, i.e., setting up institutions to dissolve previous ethnic ties and build a new common identity.


Panza, L and Y Zylberberg (2024), ‘DP18823 Nation-building and mass migration: Evidence from Mandatory Palestine‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18823. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18823