Call for Papers: Self-Interest and the Common Good in a World Defined by Migration and Minorities, SSA Conference, Zürich, 21–23 June

Call for papers for our workshop at the Swiss Sociological Association Conference in Zürich, 21–23 June 2017.

Please submit your 200 word abstracts by 19 February 2017 online. Working language of the workshop is English.

Societal and demographic changes have made apparent that our world is increasingly defined by migration calling into questions categories such as majority and minority and their relationships. One of the key challenge posed by migration is the tension between self-interest and the common good. Migrants are seen as threats to the social state, social cohesion, and public good, but also as a necessary labour force for the economy. This tension is paramount in the case of migrants who may not contribute directly to the economy. How can self-interest and social interests be reconciled in this case, and what are the implications for social cohesion?

With a focus on the challenges posed by migration on self-interest and the common good, we seek to address the following questions: What shape does diversity take and how is the diversification of society experienced in the everyday? What new conflicts arise because of diversity, and what kind of solutions can be developed? How can we define the nationhood, identity, belonging, and participation in nation-states in a context of increasing diversity? How can we form a political community, which reflects different views and belongings? What societal, political, economic and urban changes should be implemented to respond to the challenges raised by migration?

The research network migration—minorities seeks to organize panels that showcase current research on the topic. We welcome both theoretically and empirically informed papers on (but not limited to):

  • tensions between justice, human rights and citizenship rights
  • reactions and attitudes to refugees and foreigners (including categorization)
  • forms of integration, embeddedness and belonging
  • challenges and impact of migration on the economy and social policy
  • challenges and impact of migration on social cohesion and urban organization
  • the role of self-interest and social norms in minority relations

mmSSA Research Network Migration–Minorities
https://www.sgs-sss.ch/en/research-networks/migration-minderheiten/

A Foreigner Who Does Not Steal My Job — Finally in Print

Nearly two years after it’s been accepted for publication, Marco and my article on attitudes to foreigners is now in print. We examine how Swiss citizens react to foreigners by looking at a question on equal opportunities, using data from the Swiss Household Panel. In line with much of the literature, we find that individuals with low levels of education tend to oppose foreigners. This can be accounted for individual values and beliefs. Among individuals with high levels of education, the opposition to foreigners increases when they regard their job ‘at risk’. We conclude that both economic and non-economic factors shape attitudes to foreigners, despite some recent contributions that suggest economic factors to be largely irrelevant.

Pecoraro, Marco, and Didier Ruedin. 2016. “A Foreigner Who Does Not Steal My Job: The Role of Unemployment Risk and Values in Attitudes toward Equal Opportunities.” International Migration Review 50 (3): 628–66. doi:10.1111/imre.12162.

Too Many Foreigners?

Think there are too many foreigners in Western countries? If you are like the typical survey respondent, you wouldn’t necessarily disagree. What does “too many” constitute? How about 80 per cent — the estimated share of foreigners in Qatar? Check out the lovely maps at Le Monde Diplomatique, and think again whether a quarter of the population really is too much (or some 13 per cent if you’re in the US).

Skills, Education, and Attitudes to Foreigners

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.

Do Ethnically Diverse Associations Lead to Positive Attitudes?

When it comes to inter-ethnic relations, contact between groups has long been recognized as a factor potentially reducing tensions. In this sense, ethnically diverse voluntary associations have been lauded as a means to foster positive attitudes towards other groups. In a recent paper Tom van der Meer has a close look at the role of ethnically diverse associations, and concludes that in this particular case, we’re looking at self-selection effects.

The paper concludes that voluntary associations do not live up to their socializing potential to reduce tensions between different ethnic groups. Self-selection in this case means that people who are more open towards other groups in society are more likely to be in ethnically mixed association.

While the paper is a step forward in many aspects, it really would have needed panel data to support the strong conclusions it makes. In the meantime, we’re left with a caution and encouraged to dig deeper.

van der Meer, Tom. 2016. ‘Neither Bridging nor Bonding: A Test of Socialization Effects by Ethnically Diverse Voluntary Associations on Participants’ Inter-Ethnic Tolerance, Inter-Ethnic Trust and Intra-Ethnic Belonging’. Social Science Research 55 (January): 63–74. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2015.09.005.