Economic Downturn = Racist Attitudes

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:

Attitudes towards Immigrants Over Time and Contexts

I’m happy to announce a new project on attitudes towards immigrants funded by the SNIS (hiring soon). In collaboration with Tobias Müller, Eva Green, Sergi Pardos-Prado, and Marco Pecoraro, we’re going to examine individual level attitudes towards immigrants and foreigners across time and contexts. The project will examine three related research areas — the role of neighbourhoods in shaping attitudes, socialisation, and the stability or persistence of attitudes. With that, we hope to clarify the relationship between individual background, context, and negative attitudes towards foreigners.

This project is financed by the Swiss Network for International Studies.

Attitudes towards Foreigners in Switzerland

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.