Join the serious conversation on immigration — CAS Migration and Diversity

Immigration is no doubt a topic high on the political agenda and omni-present in everyday debates. Jointly with the Master of Advanced Studies in Intercultural Communication, Università della Svizzera italiana, the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies (SFM) of the University of Neuchâtel offers a Certificate in Advanced Studies on Migration and Diversity. There is still time to apply and joint the serious conversation on immigration.

CAS – Migration and Diversity – Leaflet

Ethnically homogeneous?

The other day I was at a conference, and Poland was described as ethnically homogeneous. This is not a controversial observation, I guess. The speaker was then using this homogeneity as an ‘explanation’ for current government rhetoric against Muslims in the country — compared to government rhetoric in a more heterogeneous country. This struck me as an odd explanation, after all we all know that ethnic groups and their boundaries are socially constructed. This way, the observation that in a country where the common view is one of internal homogeneity also features exclusivity to ‘others’ seemed trivial if not circular. I’m far from claiming that social construction renders ethnic differences meaningless — the consequences are very real indeed — but as an ‘explanation’ this way I’m struggling a bit.

Ruedin, Didier. 2009. ‘Ethnic Group Representation in a Cross-National Comparison’. The Journal of Legislative Studies 15 (4):335–54.
Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.

A General Class of Social Distance Measures

In a new paper, Graham Brown and Arnim Langer introduce a general class of social distance measures. They follow the general feeling that many measure of diversity and disparity may be closely related by demonstrating how they are all related. By clarifying how these different measures are related, we should find it easier to choose an appropriate measure for the analysis at hand.

The one thing I’m still not convinced is the title of the paper: While they clearly define what they mean by social distance, my sociological training keeps interfering and social distance doesn’t seem fit to express a characteristic of a society. Perhaps it’s easier to talk of the more concrete instances of ethnic diversity, or income disparity.

Brown, Graham K., and Arnim Langer. 2016. ‘A General Class of Social Distance Measures’. Political Analysis, March, mpw002. doi:10.1093/pan/mpw002.

Just How Diverse is the Immigrant Population

Statements that the immigrant population in Western Europe has not only increased but also become more diverse are very commonplace. There’s no apparent reason to doubt this, but just how diverse has the immigrant population become?

Here I use data from Switzerland (because I had them at hand) to quantify immigrant diversity. In the following I use the Herfindahl index to express diversity (available in my R package polrep), not taking into consideration that some groups should probably be considered more different than others. I approach diversity using nationality, and use the large world regions (continents) the Swiss statistical office provides: Europe, Africa, North America, Latin America, Asia, Australia/Oceania, stateless (or missing).

First, here is the foreign population of Switzerland since 1850 as context.


The diversity changed as follows:

So, yes, the immigrant population has become more diverse. To understand this change, we can look at the different groups of nationalities (continents). Here there are no constraints on the y-axis, allowing us to see relative changes.


This can be misleading in the sense that small changes can look like radical changes, so the same plot with the y-axis set to 0..1. This way the absolute impact is more visible, such as the continuing dominance of European immigrants.


Here’s another plot that illustrates that diversity and population size are not quite the same.


Most of the time, however, we’re concerned with more recent development, so here we zoom in, beginning with the overall diversity.


Here’s a look at the relative changes by group of nationality (continent):


And here the absolute changes:


Finally, here are three figures to illustrate that the population of asylum seekers has also become more diverse.


Focusing on relative changes by group of nationality (continents) we see significant peaks corresponding to events related to asylum seeking.


The absolute figures are perhaps more insightful:


All figures also on figshare.