English title: Changes in Attitudes towards Immigration: Evidence from the European Debt Crisis

Author(s): Michael Freedman -

Language: English

Type: Report, working paper

Year: 2012


Recent evidence has shown that sentiments towards immigration have improved for many European Union countries from 2002 to 2007 (Meuleman et al. 2009). However, some scholars posit that support for immigration into Europe is conditional on generous unemployment benefits and other welfare services (Lipsmeyer and Zhu 2011). In this paper, I examine the impact of the recent European debt crisis on native attitudes towards immigration in Europe, and present empirical evidence that European tolerance for immigration is highly sensitive to the stability of a country’s fiscal situation. I use data from two consecutive waves of the European Social Survey (ESS), before and after the debt crisis (2008 and 2010). I find that anti-immigrant sentiment has risen during the debt crisis, and that the sharpest increases in anti-immigration attitudes were in countries with large national debts. Attitudes against immigrants were strongest among manufacturing workers, and these workers also experienced the largest decline in sentiment. Lastly, I present preliminary evidence that anti-immigrant sentiment is starting to fester among workers who had previously shown tolerance, including highly educated workers and in wealthier European countries, such as Germany. Overall, these results suggest that continued decline in the European fiscal situation could lead to an increase in backlash towards immigration, as public resources become strained.

Edition: 0

Institution: Hebrew University

Number of pages: 31

Number: 115

Series: European Forum

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