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Immigration, Social Cohesion, and the Welfare State: Studies on Ethnic Diversity in Germany and Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2773-957X
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Can social cohesion and solidarity persist in the face of large-scale migration? One particularly contentious hypothesis states that native majorities will be unwilling to support the provision of government-funded welfare to those whom they do not consider to be part of their own sociocultural ingroup, especially when sociocultural or ethnic otherness and socioeconomic disadvantage overlap. Consequently, majorities’ willingness to accept disadvantaged immigrant groups as legitimate and trusted members of the welfare community is central to the social cohesion of societies diversifying through migration.

The dissertation consists of a comprehensive summary, followed by four original studies addressing the interplay between migration-induced diversity and social cohesion through the lens of majority attitudes and the micro and macro contexts within which they are embedded. The studies focus on Sweden and Germany, two European societies that host strong welfare states and large immigrant populations. Together, they seek to answer two central questions:

First, does social distance between native-born citizens and immigrants lead the former to withdraw support from all redistributive policies, or are some types of welfare more affected than others? Second, how does the migration-induced diversification of societies come to matter for majority attitudes toward the welfare state and, as they are closely related, for majority attitudes toward the trustworthiness of others?

Looking at the case of Germany, Study 1 shows that the conflict between diversity and welfare solidarity is not expressed in a general majority opposition to welfare, but rather in an opposition to government assistance benefiting immigrants – a phenomenon sometimes referred to as welfare chauvinism.

Study 2 turns to the case of Sweden and investigates three pathways into welfare chauvinism: via the first-hand experience of immigrant unemployment and putative welfare receipt in the neighborhood context; via exposure to immigrant competition at the workplace; and via negative prejudice against immigrants. We find that the direct observation of immigrant unemployment in the neighborhood increases natives’ preference for spending on other Swedes over spending on immigrants, while competition with immigrants at the workplace does not.

Using the same Swedish data, Study 3 hypothesizes that ethnically diverse workplaces imply trust-fostering inter-group contact. Yet, like in Study 2, we find a negative relationship between majority Swedes’ exposure to certain immigrant groups in the neighborhood and their trust in neighbors, while diverse workplaces neither seem to increase trust nor to affect the negative neighborhood-level association.

Both Studies 2 and 3 show that negative attitudes toward immigrants increase welfare chauvinism and lower trust, even disregarding majority Swedes’ actual experience of immigrant presence or unemployment. Study 4 thus turns to a social force outside the realm of first-hand experience and explores German online news media debates on the welfare deservingness of various sociodemographic groups – among them, immigrants (as refugees in particular). However, rather than observing the persistent and particular stigmatization of immigrants as undeserving recipients or untrustworthy abusers of welfare, we find much more nuanced descriptions in our vast corpus of news stories.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University , 2017.
Series
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; N.S., 68
Keyword [en]
welfare state, attitudes, intergroup relations, prejudice, deservingness, diversity, immigration, integration, unemployment, Sweden, Germany
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-141582ISBN: 978-91-7649-817-0 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-818-7 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-141582DiVA: diva2:1090223
Public defence
2017-06-09, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-05-17 Created: 2017-04-23 Last updated: 2017-05-10Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Anti-immigrant sentiment and majority support for three types of welfare: The case of Germany
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Anti-immigrant sentiment and majority support for three types of welfare: The case of Germany
2015 (English)In: European Societies: The Official Journal of the European Sociological Association, ISSN 1461-6696, E-ISSN 1469-8307, Vol. 17, no 5, 620-652 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Past research suggests that majority evaluations of welfare deservingness are structured along ethnic dividing lines. The fact that poverty and immigrant status are highly associated across Europe's increasingly ethnically diverse societies may thus lead majorities to withdraw support from welfare programs that transfer money to people who are different from themselves. Utilizing measures of general welfarism, most prior studies have not addressed the interplay between attitudes toward immigrants and support for specific welfare types that rely on different notions of entitlement and attract varying levels of take-up among natives and immigrants. Addressing this gap in the literature and focusing on the example of Germany, this paper asks to what extent anti-immigrant sentiment relates to native-born Germans’ attitudes toward the government's responsibility to care for three recipient groups: the unemployed, the old, and the sick. Anti-immigrant attitudes expressed as ethnic prejudice are associated with lowered support for government intervention to assist the unemployed, while support for old-age and sickness assistance does not appear to be related to levels of negative out-group sentiment. The results suggest that those who harbor ethnic prejudice are more likely to oppose aid that is predominantly means-tested, rather than universal or contribution-based, and that does benefit a large number of non-natives. The negative association between prejudice and support for unemployment assistance is independent of concerns with the economic viability of the welfare system in the face of immigration. This points to the relevance of negative affect beyond subjectively rational motives.

Keyword
ethnic prejudice, subjective rationality, immigration, welfare state, Germany
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-123670 (URN)10.1080/14616696.2015.1088959 (DOI)000370680100002 ()
Available from: 2015-12-02 Created: 2015-12-01 Last updated: 2017-05-05Bibliographically approved
2. Social Distance, Immigrant Integration, and Welfare Chauvinism in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Social Distance, Immigrant Integration, and Welfare Chauvinism in Sweden
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Populist radical right-wing parties across Europe garner support for welfare chauvinistic promises to limit government spending on immigrants and focus on natives’ welfare instead. However, most research on the so-called immigration-welfare nexus does not study welfare chauvinism but instead focuses on generalized support for the welfare state. Using Swedish register-linked survey data from 2013, we study three hypothetical pathways into welfare chauvinism: via ethnic prejudice, operationalized as a desire for social distance; via the direct experience of immigrant unemployment and putative welfare receipt in the neighborhood context; and via immigrant competition at the workplace. Based on our sample of native-born Swedes, we find that both negative prejudice and the share of unemployed immigrants among the neighborhood population provide two distinct and independent routes into chauvinism, while workplace competition does not.

Keyword
welfare chauvinism, government spending, immigration, integration, prejudice, Sweden
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140873 (URN)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2011-0205
Available from: 2017-04-04 Created: 2017-04-04 Last updated: 2017-05-05Bibliographically approved
3. Are They Hunkering Down? Revisiting the Relationship between Exposure to Ethnic Diversity, Intergroup Contact, and Group Trust
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Are They Hunkering Down? Revisiting the Relationship between Exposure to Ethnic Diversity, Intergroup Contact, and Group Trust
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Past research suggests that the migration-induced diversification of everyday living spaces creates uncertainty about shared norms and rules of engagement, leading individuals to “hunker down” and become distrustful. Theory distinguishes between mere exposure and actual contact effects. For mere exposure, the assumption is that ethnic diversity matters even in the absence of one-on-one interactions, as observing the unknown from afar will serve to activate negative prejudice which lowers trust. But diverse environments may also provide opportunities for positive contact, leading individuals to revise their distrust. Improving upon existing studies, we investigate simultaneously the association between group trust and diversity via static and cumulative mere exposure in the neighborhood setting and actual intergroup contact at the workplace, relying on administrative register data rather than self-reporting for our main predictors. We find that trust in neighbors is significantly negatively associated with cumulative exposure to ethnic diversity, while the widely-used measure of current exposure shows no effect. Workplace contact neither has a statistically significant association with trust in neighbors, nor does it mediate the negative association between neighborhood exposure and trust. We thus find some support for the hunkering down hypothesis, but also find that it takes much more precise measures of exposure than studies commonly use to reliably establish this effect.

Keyword
trust, diversity, exposure, contact, Sweden
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140874 (URN)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2011-0205
Available from: 2017-03-30 Created: 2017-03-30 Last updated: 2017-05-05Bibliographically approved
4. Tracing Explanations of Unemployment across Sociodemographic Groups: A Mixed-Methods Content Analysis of German Online News Stories (2003-2015)
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Tracing Explanations of Unemployment across Sociodemographic Groups: A Mixed-Methods Content Analysis of German Online News Stories (2003-2015)
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

We first provide a quantitative description of a large corpus of German online news texts spanning 12 years, and find that news stories mentioning unemployment tend to also mention a number of specific sociodemographic groups, namely women, children, the old/young, and, since 2015, refugees. We then utilize computational count-based modes of manifest content analysis to derive a manageable sample of short text passages that represents the nature of our large corpus but lends itself to in-depth qualitative analysis of latent content. Focusing on this sample of text passages, we investigate whether there are notable differences in how unemployment is explained for each of the identified sociodemographic groups. This is important, because such explanations lie at the heart of popular perceptions of the deservingness of the unemployed and the poor more broadly. Our mixed-methods approach to content analysis reveals a surprising degree of ambivalence in the portrayal of unemployment as an issue of individual responsibility and self-infliction, as opposed to a matter of circumstance, brought about by forces outside anyone’s personal control, within each of the investigated sociodemographic groups. This is not in line with much prior research, which often suggests a much more homogeneous attribution of responsibility within presumably more and less deserving groups.

Keyword
deservingness, unemployment, framing, news, mixed methods, content analysis, corpus, Germany
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140875 (URN)
Projects
The Evolution of Prejudice
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016-07177
Available from: 2017-04-07 Created: 2017-04-07 Last updated: 2017-05-05Bibliographically approved

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