Currently the notion of Schrödinger’s immigrant is going around the internet (again). Referring to Schrödinger’s cat, a Schrödinger immigrant is one lazing around on (undeserved) social benefits, while simultaneously stealing your job. So far, so funny: It’s a good laugh at the UKIP and other parties politicizing against immigration.
The joke — Schrödinger’s immigrant — only works, however, because of outgroup homogeneity: the tendency to regard out-groups as homogeneous (while drawing fine distinction within the in-group). It only works, because it refers to a single immigrant, collapsing all immigrants into a single type. Obviously with two or more immigrants the ‘paradox’ is readily resolved. Put differently, the joke is only funny if we fall into the same trap as those we are laughing at.
With such simplified thinking, however, we miss the opportunity to use proper evidence to counter the overblown fears some members of society seem to have, but also the opportunity to take these fears seriously, and acknowledging that there are different means of competing with immigrants so that some individuals may be affected by the arrival of immigrants more than others.
Image credit: Modified from https://flic.kr/p/dK7dSa CC-by-sa by Joe Szilagyi