How Xenophobic Beliefs shape Natives’ Attitudes towards Redistribution

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Author(s):Raul Magni Berton

Taken as a whole, immigrants can be scary for two opposite reasons. On the one hand, they can be seen as people willing to work hard for low income and competing with local worker. This competition deprives natives of their jobs or at least contributes to the reduction in their income. The immigrant is scary because he is a hard worker. On the other hand, immigrants can be seen as less competitive and skilled than native workers, and as benefiting from social protection programs. This immigrant is frowned upon because unlike the first, he dries up social security funds. Both concerns have psychological effects on the natives’ support for social protection, including protection against unemployment or poverty.

Raul Magni-Berton’s research from Department of Political Science at Grenoble University, published in Open Journal of Political Science 2013 vol.1 by Scientific Research Publishing usesa multivariate estimation on 3000 French. He shows that those who see immigrants as lazy or unskilled, wish further reduce the welfare state, while those who see them as dangerously competitive want instead increase it. This statistical relationship holds after appropriate controls (attitudes vis-à-vis the market, religiousness, age, gender and other demographic and occupational characteristics). Bivariate estimates for 54 countries also confirm this finding.

The explanation is simple: when we are afraid of losing out to competition, we want to be more protected. However, when we are the winners, we do not want to pay for those who have lost. When the reason for the fear of foreigners is known, we can predict in which direction the attitudes towards social protection go.

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