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.
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).
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.
A new paper by David W. Johnston and Grace Lordan shows that self-declared attitudes towards people of other races are more negative during economic downturns (when unemployment is higher). This finding is reminiscent to what Marco Pecoraro and I found with regard to attitudes towards foreigners. While we did not make the link to the context and unemployment levels, our analysis demonstrates that the self-declared risk of unemployment is related to negative attitudes towards foreigners.
Now negative attitudes are not the same as discriminatory behaviour. Interestingly, in our meta-analysis of correspondence tests we found no systematic link between the economic situation and discrimination in the labour market. This would suggest that the impact of the economy is only indirect — or that we’re not doing good enough a job in capturing what’s going on.
Johnston, David W., and Grace Lordan. 2015. ‘Racial Prejudice and Labour Market Penalties during Economic Downturns.’ European Economic Review. doi:10.1016/j.euroecorev.2015.07.011.
Pecoraro, Marco, and Didier Ruedin. 2015. ‘A Foreigner Who Doesn’t Steal My Job: The Role of Unemployment Risk and Values in Attitudes towards Equal Opportunities.’ International Migration Review, 1–53. doi:10.1111/imre.12162.
Zschirnt, Eva and Ruedin, Didier, Ethnic Discrimination in Hiring Decisions: A Meta-Analysis of Correspondence Tests 1990-2015 (April 22, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2597554
It’s been a long time in the making, and took long to appear on the web, but our paper on attitudes towards foreigners is finally available at the International Migration Review. in this paper, we use data from the Swiss Household Panel to examine individual attitudes towards equal opportunities for foreigners and Swiss citizens. Various tests show that we indeed tap into attitudes towards immigrants. We find that individuals with low levels of education tend to oppose immigrants, something quite established in the literature. By contrast, there is evidence that individuals with high levels of education are less positive when their risk of unemployment increases. The negative attitudes of people with low levels of education can be explained by their values and beliefs, but not the association with the risk of unemployment for individuals with high levels of education. We interpret this that both values and economic factors are important for explaining attitudes toward foreigners, despite many recent contributions dismissing economic factors at the individual level.