A Foreigner who Does Not Steal My Job: The Role of Unemployment Risk and Values in Attitudes toward Equal Opportunities

  • Marco Pecoraro, Didier Ruedin
  • International Migration Review, September 2016, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1111/imre.12162

Unemployment risk makes highly educated workers oppose immigration more

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

What is it about?

Why do some individuals oppose immigration and immigrants and others do not? We examine individual attitudes towards equal opportunities for foreigners and Swiss citizens -- a question we think captures concerns over labour-market competition. We use cross-sectional data from the Swiss Household Panel. Individuals with low levels of education tend to oppose foreigners. Individuals with high levels of education tend to oppose foreigners more when they are at (self-assessed) risk of unemployment. While values and beliefs can explain opposition to immigration, they do not explain the association with the risk of unemployment for individuals with high levels of education. We conclude that both values and economic factors are important for explaining attitudes towards foreigners.

Why is it important?

Only when we understand why individuals oppose immigrants and immigration we can do something about it. There is disagreement in the literature to what extent economic factors play a role.


Didier Ruedin
Universite de Neuchatel

Starting with a simple model of economic competition, there are several studies that conclude that economic competition are irrelevant when it comes to negative attitudes to foreigners. While I'm happy to accept that economic factors may not be dominant, we were not satisfied that these studies adequately capture economic concerns. Here we show that economic concerns can play a role, and that highly educated individuals also oppose immigrants.

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The following have contributed to this page: Didier Ruedin and Marco Pecoraro