Discrimination in the Housing Market: In the Press

Our study on the discrimination of people with foreign-sounding names in housing market in Switzerland has been picked up by the press. The sunday tabloid SonntagsBlick run the story with many details. I was happy to see that the news report, as well as the press coverage that followed in other newspapers, was quite accurate.

I even ventured into the online comments, just curious to see what the self-select group of commenters had to say. A few offered their own experience of what we describe in the report: flats not being available when a person with a foreign name phones up, but still available when a person with a ‘native’ name phones up. Quite a few defended the right to discriminate and offered their own experience as landlords, hearsay, and stereotypes as justifications for what we would call statistical discrimination. (This kind of ‘evidence’ is also quite ‘funny’ in the sense that whether you had a good or bad experience with tenants from XYZ, there’s another commentator with the opposite experience.) I find this quite interesting, and we had similar reactions in a study on hiring discrimination: A substantial part of the population does not seem to understand that statistical discrimination is also discrimination. Quite interesting is that none of the comments I have seen picked up on the difference between having a ‘foreign-sounding’ name, and being a foreign citizen — the perception as ethnic groups. Our results hold irrespective of citizenship, so we show that some Swiss citizens are discriminated (too) because of their name.

Press coverage: SonntagsBlick, Tages-Anzeiger, Bluewin, Basler Zeitung, Nau.ch, 20 Minuten, Mieterverband

Auer, Daniel, Julie Lacroix, Didier Ruedin, and Eva Zschirnt. 2019. ‘Ethnische Diskriminierung auf dem Schweizer Wohnungsmarkt’. Grenchen: BWO.

Image: cc-by turkeychik

New paper on exposure in the job and attitudes to immigrants

I have the pleasure to announce our new paper on attitudes to foreigners. Marco and I wanted to move beyond the share of foreigners in geographically defined areas: We examined the share of foreigners in one’s job and how this is linked to attitudes. A key motivation for doing this was that many contributions on attitudes to immigrants seem to dismiss competitive threat in the labour market despite not providing a realistic test of such competition. Just think a moment: I’m not competing with (foreignany) workers in the construction sector, and I’m not competing with many of the highly educated immigrants workers either. We have segmented labour markets, and we should account for them in our analyses.

We find that a higher share of foreigners in one’s occupation correlates with more negative attitudes to immigrants. This suggests that workers react to competition with foreigners. When we dig deeper, we find that objective pressures in the labour market (we use the unemployment rate in each occupation) matter, just like contact with foreigners at work seem to alleviate negative attitudes. In fact, it turns out that sorting on job quality can probably account for these factors, especially objective pressures in the labour market.

Where does this leave us? It appears that workers react to immigrants at work in a differentiated manner. On the one hand, they dislike workers competing with them, on the other hand, they welcome them when they help overcome labour market shortages.

Pecoraro, Marco, and Didier Ruedin. 2019. “Occupational Exposure to Foreigners and Attitudes towards Equal Opportunities.” Migration Studies. https://doi.org/10.1093/migration/mnz006.

National Study on Ethnic Discrimination in the Housing Market

Today I’m giving you the first national field experiment on ethnic discrimination in the housing market. Financed by the Swiss Office for Housing and the NCCR on the move, we examined to what extent one’s name affects the likelihood to be invited to view an apartment. We covered the entire country, across language regions and across urban and rural areas.

Between March and October 2018, our diligent research assistants sent more than 11,000 enquiries to over 5,700 landlords in all parts of Switzerland. We varied the name of the person sending an enquiry (stimulus sampling) along with other features such as politeness or the family situation. Overall over 70% of the enquiries were answered positively in the sense of an invitation to view the apartment or steps in this direction.

We find no clear differences between commercial and private landlords. The response rate for women was around 1 percent higher, while highly qualified people had a 2 percent higher response rate, especially academics who use their doctoral title (we dind’t expect this to make such a big difference when we designed the study). As previous field experiments have shown, the quality of the message we sent affected the probability of a response: Compared to a standard text, the response rate for friendlier queries is about 5 percent higher, while queries with the default text from online portals show a 10 percent lower response rate.

We find evidence of ethnic discrimination in the sense of unequal treatment based on the name. Enquiries with names from neighbouring countries (Germany, Italy, France) were even invited somewhat more frequently to view apartments than those from Switzerland, but people with Kosovar (response rate just under 3 percent lower) or Turkish names (response rate about 5 percent lower) have significantly fewer chances of being invited for a viewing. Whether those interested were naturalised with foreign-sounding names or stated that they had a permanent residence permit was hardly a factor. The rate of discrimination we observe is similar in order of magnitude to that found in comparable studies in other Western countries.

With the national coverage, we can also observe variation in responses by local context where the property is located. In municipalities with higher rental prices, the positive response rate is higher for everyone, and a higher vacancy rate in the municipality is associated with a higher response rate, except for people with Kosovar names. In urban areas the probability of discriminating against people with foreign names is lower. We also find that people with foreign-sounding names are less likely to be invited in municipalities with restrictive political attitudes towards immigration (as measured in the results of popular initiatives and referendums).

Auer, Daniel, Julie Lacroix, Didier Ruedin, and Eva Zschirnt. 2019. ‘Ethnische Diskriminierung auf dem Schweizer Wohnungsmarkt’. Grenchen: BWO. https://www.bwo.admin.ch/bwo/de/home/Wohnungsmarkt/studien-und-publikationen/diskriminierung-auf-der-schweizer-wohnungsmarkt.html.

Call for papers: The Future of Work for Migrants and Minorities

In the context of the research group on migration and minorities of the SSA, we’re launching a call for paper on “The Future of Work for Migrants and Minorities”.

SSA Conference, Neuchâtel, 10–12 September 2019

Labour remains one of the most important sources of income and status, defining who we are to ourselves and to others. As labour is changing, the social and political implications of these changes are unclear. Immigration is both a consequence and a reason of changes at the workplace. On the one hand, migrants are seen as necessary in order to limit the ageing of the population and to answer to the needs of the labour market calling for super qualified workers in certain economic niches but also to flexible and low wages workers easily replaceable. Yet, migrants can be seen as unwanted competitors and threats to local workers, and so doing to social cohesion.

With a focus on changes in the labour market, we seek to address the following questions: What role does immigration play in shaping the future of work? What is the role of refugees who often do not have the skills sought by the local economy? How do changes at work shape immigration patterns? How do changes at work affect immigrants and their descendants? What new conflicts arise because of changes at work, and what kind of solutions can be developed?

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):

  • the role of immigration in shaping the future of work
  • reactions and attitudes to refugees and foreigners at the workplace
  • forms of integration in the labour market, 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

Please submit your 200 word abstracts by 5 January 2019 on http://neuchatel.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0xQfCpH64Q8oxsF

Working language of the workshop is English.

Call as PDF

Extended — Swiss-Subsaharan Africa Migration Call

We have just extended the current call by the Swiss-Subsaharan Africa Migration (S-SAM) network to 16 September 2018 to give everyone more time to prepare their submission.

We aim to build and strengthen long-term partnerships between migration researchers in Subsaharan Africa and Switzerland, and we have just launched our first call for pilot studies and exchanges: https://www.unine.ch/sfm/home/formation/ssam.html

Key countries are: Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, as well as Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, and Tanzania. We fund small pilot studies and exchanges for late PhD and early postdoctoral researchers. The focus is on reasons and preparations to migrate, health, and student migration.