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What Drives Local Xenophobia: Evidence from Naturalization Decisions in Swiss Municipalities

Applicant Steenbergen Marco
Number 132004
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Politikwissenschaft Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.01.2011 - 31.12.2012
Approved amount 202'996.00
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Keywords (2)

Immigration; immigration naturalization Switzerland

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Lay summary
Das Ziel unserer Untersuchung ist, anhand von Einbürgerungsentscheiden in Schweizer Gemeinden zur aktuellen Literatur über die Einstellung gegenüber Immigration beizutragen. Über Anträge auf Einbürgerung wird in der Schweiz oftmals auf der lokalen Ebene entschieden, wobei die Gemeinden in diesem Prozess viele unterschiedliche Regeln und Verfahren anwenden. Diese reichen von einer Volksabstimmung an der Urne, über Abstimmung an der Geimeindeversammlung, bis hin zur Entscheidungsfindung im Gemeinderat oder in einer aus der Exekutive gebildeten Kommission. Diese unterschiedlichen Verfahren haben in den letzten Jahrzehnten nicht nur zu hitzigen politischen und juristischen Debatten geführt, sondern auch eine riesige Menge an wertvollen Verhaltensdaten zu immigrationsfeindlichen Haltungen generiert, weil Einbürgerungsentscheide von Tausenden von Antragstellern mit unterschiedlichsten Hintergründen und Merkmalen gespeichert wurden. Ziel unserer Studie ist es, einen neuen, Mehr-Ebenen Datensatz zu erstellen, der zum ersten Mal detaillierte Informationen auf der Ebene des Gesuchstellers enthält (z.B. Alter, Geschlecht, Ethnizität, Herkunftsland, Beruf, etc.) und diese in mit detaillierten Daten auf Gemeindeebene verlinkt (z.B. Entscheidungsorgan / Entscheidungsverfahren, lokale Parteienstärke, Arbeitsmarktbedingungen, ect.). Wir werden versuchen diese Informationen über eine umfassende, repräsentative Auswahl an Gemeinden hinweg zu sammeln und dabei soweit auf Daten zurückzugreifen wie sie in den lokalen Archiven vorhanden sind.Der Datensatz wird es uns ermöglichen, basierend auf Verhaltensdaten und glaubwürdigen Vergleichen über Antragssteller und Gemeinden hinweg die grundlegenden Fragen zu den Ursachen lokaler Xenophobie anzugehen. Diese Fragen beinhalten u.a. welche Faktoren (ökonomische, politische oder kulturelle) einen erfolgreichen Einbürgerungsantrag erklären, ob systematische Diskriminierungen gegenüber bestimmten Typen von Immigranten vorliegen, wie das institutionelle Arrangement die Einbürgerungsentscheide und die aggregierte Rückweisungsrate beeinflusst, und wie solche kontextuellen Institutionseffekte über bestimmte Typen von Immigranten sowie Gemeindecharakteristiken hinweg variieren.Dank den Vorteilen des Untersuchungsdesigns sowie dem Reichtum der zu sammelnden, verhaltensbasierten Daten, sind wir zuversichtlich, dass diese Studie einen wesentlichen Beitrag zum Verständnis der Ursachen von immigrationsfeindlichen Einstellungen leisten kann.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Who Gets a Swiss Passport? A Natural Experiment in Immigrant Discrimination
Hainmueller Jens, Hangartner Dominik (2013), Who Gets a Swiss Passport? A Natural Experiment in Immigrant Discrimination, in American Political Science Review , 107(1), 159-187.

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Video/Film citizenship.ch Western Switzerland International German-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland 2012
Media relations: radio, television Einbuergerung an der Urne SRF1 German-speaking Switzerland 2012

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
143534 The Causal Effects of Citizenship: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design 01.01.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Immigration is a long-simmering policy issue in Switzerland and many other countries. One of the most controversial aspects of immigration policy is the naturalization of immigrants, since citizenship is often tied to important rights. Supporters tout liberal naturalization rules as an effective vehicle to facilitate the integration of migrants. But many others reject the integration of immigrants as citizens because they believe that naturalizations amplify the negative consequences of immigration. Citizenship is seen as a privilege that is not to be bestowed upon immigrants who primarily poach jobs from native workers, balkanize local communities, and undermine traditional values. Why do some people oppose and others favor immigration and the naturalization of immigrants? Existing research has generated inconsistent findings and no clear consensus view. Scholars are deeply divided over the relative importance of economic, political, and cultural considerations that may motivate anti-immigrant sentiment. Building on the pioneering work by Helbing and Kriesi (2004) and Helbing (2008), the goal of our study is to contribute to the literature on opposition to immigration by providing new micro-level evidence from naturalization decisions in Swiss municipalities. Naturalization applications in Switzerland are largely decided at the local level where municipalities use many different rules to decide on citizenship applications. These rules range from secret ballot referenda, to voting in citizens’ assemblies, city councils, or executive commissions. This unique arrangement not only aroused heated political debates in recent decades, but also generated a wealth of invaluable behavioral data on anti-immigrant sentiment comprising decisions over thousands of immigrants with radically different backgrounds and attributes. Our goal is to create a new, multi-layered dataset that for the first time collects detailed information at the applicant level (e.g. age, gender, race, country of origin, occupation, etc.) and links it with detailed data at the municipality level (e.g. application regime, local party strength, labor market conditions, etc.). We aim to measure this data across a large, representative set of municipalities; extracting data as far back as it is stored in the local archives.This dataset will allow us to address fundamental questions pertaining to the drivers of local xenophobia based on behavioral data and credible cross-applicant and cross-municipality comparisons. These questions include which factors (economic, political, or cultural) explain successful applications, whether there is systematic discrimination against particular types of immigrants, how the institutional arrangements affect application decisions and aggregate rejection rates, and how these contextual institutional effects vary across particular types of immigrants and across underlying community characteristics. In the past months we have piloted our research design, collecting and coding data on over 550 immigrant applicants from five municipalities. The preliminary results suggest that our approach is feasible and that a large fraction (ca. 67%) of the variation in naturalization decisions is indeed driven by individual applicant characteristics. We request funding from the SNF to scale up our data collection to a larger, representative set of municipalities. This would enable us to provide a comprehensive account of the interplay between applicant attributes, the institutional environment, and the socio-economic community characteristics.Given the advantages in research design and the amount of new evidence collected, we are confident that this study will make an important contribution to our understanding of the sources of anti-immigrant sentiments. Due to lack of systematical data, policy debates over immigration and naturalization in Switzerland to date have been largely based on anecdotal evidence from newspaper reports and watchdog groups. By collecting and analyzing the micro-level data on naturalization decisions over recent decades, our project will comprehensively document this important chapter of Swiss history and critically inform ongoing policy debates with the necessary empirical evidence.
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