Re-reading some classics in the study of attitudes to foreigners or immigrants, it hit me how often we still rely on education when we mean skills. While education and skills tend to be correlated to some degree, the two are not quite the same. It is then surprising to see how many contributions rely on education when their theory of competitive threat and material interests really is about skills. Yes, often we only have education in the survey data we rely on, and indeed the results may indeed be similar irrespective of whether we use education or skills, but shouldn’t we be a bit more careful with the conclusions we draw when all we use are proxies? (especially when we rely on average levels of education, continue to make the assumption that all immigrants are low-skilled, or when we assume that respondent have a typical immigrant in mind when we ask about “immigrants” in the generic sense in a survey, rather than say asylum seekers).
Blinder, Scott. 2015. ‘Imagined Immigration: The Impact of Different Meanings of “Immigrants” in Public Opinion and Policy Debates in Britain’. Political Studies 63 (1): 80–100. doi:10.1111/1467-9248.12053.
Pecoraro, Marco, and Didier Ruedin. 2015. ‘A Foreigner Who Does Not Steal My Job: The Role of Unemployment Risk and Values in Attitudes toward Equal Opportunities’. International Migration Review Early View: 1–53. doi:10.1111/imre.12162.