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Who Gets a Swiss Passport? A Natural Experiment in Immigrant Discrimination

American Political Science Review, Volume 107, Issue 01, February 2013, pp 159-187

Formerly: MIT Political Science Department Research Paper

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 Last revised: 29 Jan 2014

Jens Hainmueller

Stanford University - Department of Political Science; Stanford Graduate School of Business; Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

Dominik Hangartner

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

Date Written: September 1, 2012

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Hainmueller, Jens and Hangartner, Dominik, Who Gets a Swiss Passport? A Natural Experiment in Immigrant Discrimination (September 1, 2012). American Political Science Review, Volume 107, Issue 01, February 2013, pp 159-187; Formerly: MIT Political Science Department Research Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1898927 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1898927

Jens Hainmueller (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/~jhain/

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

30 Alta Road
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Dominik Hangartner

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Departments of Government and Methodology
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

30 Alta Road
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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