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A good foreigner is a foreigner who doesn’t steal my job: The attitudinal role of skills, unemployment risk and values

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Other publication (peer-review)
Author Pecoraro Marco, Ruedin Didier,
Project Explaining Individual Attitudes towards Foreigners in Switzerland
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Other publication (peer-review)

Publisher FORS, Lausanne

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Over the past three decades, immigration has become systematically politicized by parties on the right, and opposed by many individuals in society. Different hypotheses have been proposed to explain variation in the opposition to immigration among the population. Economic arguments highlight the competition between native workers and immigrants over limited resources. Sociological arguments underline additional factors like values and beliefs. Using cross-sectional data from the Swiss Household Panel 1999, we account for non-linearity in educational attainment, and consider relative risk to unemployment – and how these two variables interact. We examine individual attitudes towards equal opportunities for foreigners and Swiss citizens. Here we show that individuals with low levels of education tend to oppose equal opportunities for foreigners, while for individuals with high levels of education such opposition can be observed with increasing unemployment risk. Our analysis demonstrates that values and beliefs can account for the negative attitudes of individuals with low levels of education. The association with unemployment risk for individuals with high levels of education, by contrast, is robust to this control for values and beliefs. It becomes clear that attitudes towards equal opportunities for immigrants are not a simple reaction to changes in the demographic composition of the labour force. Both values and economic factors play a central role.