Who Gets a Swiss Passport? A Natural Experiment in Immigrant Discrimination
Stanford University - Department of Political Science; Stanford Graduate School of Business; Stanford Immigration Policy Lab
London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Stanford Immigration Policy Lab
September 1, 2012
American Political Science Review, Volume 107, Issue 01, February 2013, pp 159-187
Formerly: MIT Political Science Department Research Paper
We study discrimination against immigrants using micro-level data from Switzerland, where, until recently, some municipalities used referendums to decide on the citizenship applications of foreign residents. We show that naturalization decisions vary dramatically with immigrants' attributes, which we collect from official applicant descriptions that voters received before each referendum. Country of origin determines naturalization success more than any other applicant characteristic, including language skills, integration status, and economic credentials. The average proportion of `no' votes is about 40% higher for applicants from the (former) Yugoslavia and Turkey compared to observably similar applicants from richer northern and western European countries. Statistical and taste-based discrimination contribute to varying naturalization success; the rewards for economic credentials are higher for applicants from disadvantaged origins, and origin-based discrimination is much stronger in more xenophobic municipalities. Moreover, discrimination against specific immigrant groups responds dynamically to changes in the groups' relative size.
Keywords: immigration, discrimination, naturalization, natural experiment
JEL Classification: J71, J15, F22
Date posted: July 30, 2011 ; Last revised: January 29, 2014
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