Join us at the NCCR on the move and the SFM in Neuchâtel! — Postdoctoral Researcher (70%)

Postdoctoral Researcher (70%) at the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) on the move and Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies at the University of Neuchâtel

Deadline: 15 December 2019.

Work as part of its project entitled ‘Migration, Mobility and the Democratic Welfare State’ to examine, in a historical and comparative perspective, how European welfare states have adapted to the twin challenges of international migration and mobility, from the redistributive ‘Golden Age’ in the 1970s to the present.

You will produce high quality original research and collaborate with other senior and PhD researchers already involved in the project. You may be given the opportunity to teach.

Suitable candidates should hold a PhD in History. Applications from persons with a PhD in Sociology, Political Science, or Political Theory and with an interest in historical analysis will also be considered.

Priority will be given to applicants with a proven track record of research experience in one or several of the following sub-fields: Migration; Social Policy; Comparative Politics; Welfare.

Starting date: 1 February 2020

Duration: Until May 2022 (26 months)

Full details here: https://nccr-onthemove.ch/wp_live14/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/IP22_Unine_PostDoc_final.pdf

Switzerland’s Cantons as a Most-Similar Design?

From time to time I come across research that claims that Switzerland is the ideal place for many comparative studies. The argument is that the 26 cantons of Switzerland offer similar institutional settings, yet have plenty of autonomy in other regards. The intuition is that the federalism inherent in the Swiss system allows to hold constant many aspects while testing for other differences: a most-similar research design.

While I like the idea of working with sub-national data, I’d suggest a more careful look: in some cases the situation may indeed allow most-similar design, but in others this does not seem to be the case. Here I simply list a few reason why the Swiss cantons may not be the ideal place for comparative studies. Whether this matters will depend on the individual study.

Let’s start with the institutional setting. In broad terms, it’s the same across Switzerland: three levels of government (municipal, cantonal, national). When it comes to details, however, we can see that autonomy means something in Switzerland. Let’s take just two examples. Each canton has an authority to deal with immigration issues (on its own or attached to another service), except for the Canton of Bern which has four of them. The electoral system for the lower chamber is the same in all cantons, for the upper chamber it’s up to the canton to decide — and they make use of this.

Even though there are efforts to harmonize the educational system in Switzerland (a bit over half the cantons now harmonize their systems), there’s still much variety.

More profound differences may exist between regions. The difference between language regions is often highlighted, but there’s more than the share of French-speakers in a canton. The traditionally dominant religion in the different cantons varies and cuts across the language regions. If we look at distance to traditional trade routes through Switzerland (think contact hypothesis), we get a different picture still. And then there is history: different parts of Switzerland have become part of what is present-day Switzerland in quite different circumstances (something many accounts apparently manage quite well to gloss over).

Don’t care about culture? Let’s consider the economy. While Switzerland overall is a rich country, there’s a big difference between economic centres like Zurich, Geneva, or Basel, and other places. We could consider the degree of urbanization here, or the importance of agriculture, average incomes, average rents, and other economic factors.

The point here is not to dismiss the claim of a most-similar research design, but to highlight that the situation is not as simple as often implied: there are significant institutional, socio-economic, and cultural differences within. Whether they matter will depend on the research question.

Explaining MIPEX Scores with Patterns of Democracy

I’m always happy to see research published that I hoped to get done ‘one of theses days’. A recent paper in West European Politics uses a sophisticated model to statistically explain immigration policies using patterns of democracy. Different aspects of democracy are associated in different ways, but I’m a bit puzzled by the decision of the authors to downplay the influence of GDP. Perhaps there’s still a difference between political science and sociology after all, and institutional differences count more, so to speak, than for example a modernization thesis.

Wasn’t it already published, I’d include this paper as an example in my recent paper on recombining MIPEX. It’s just one of these instances where aggregated MIPEX scores (and in the supplementary material MIPEX dimensions) are used. Well, if you’re not into recombining MIPEX, a look at a pure reliability assessment of MIPEX might have helped making a slightly stronger case. With just 30 countries, more sensitivity analysis would also help. For instance, is there something about “settler legacies” or is it just Anglosaxon countries with a longer tradition of regulating race and ethnicity — something that MIPEX honours?

Future efforts should make use of the fact that MIPEX data have been collected over time, which makes for stronger conclusions (institutions or otherwise). They may also use theory other than the empirically refuted assumption that proportional systems are good for all kinds of minorities under all circumstance. Irrespective of these quibbles, with the paper by Anita Manatschal and Julian Bernauer we have a good basis to build on.