Does Direct Democracy Hurt Immigrant Minorities? Evidence from Naturalization Decisions in Switzerland

56 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2012 Last revised: 18 Jul 2015

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

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2015

Abstract

Do minorities fare worse under direct democracy than under representative democracy? We provide new evidence by studying naturalization requests of immigrants in Switzerland that were typically decided with referendums in each municipality. Using panel data from 1,400 municipalities for the 1991-2009 period, we exploit Federal Court rulings that forced municipalities to transfer the decisions to their elected municipality councils. We find that naturalization rates surged by 60% once politicians rather than citizens began deciding on naturalization applications. Whereas voters in referendums face no cost of arbitrarily rejecting qualified applicants based on discriminatory preferences, politicians in the council are constrained to formally justify rejections and may be held accountable by judicial review. Consistent with this mechanism, the increase in naturalization rates caused by switching from direct to representative democracy is much stronger for more marginalized immigrant groups and in areas where voters are more xenophobic or where judicial review is more salient.

Keywords: direct democracy, representative democracy, minority rights, accountability, citizenship

JEL Classification: D7, H1

Suggested Citation

Hainmueller, Jens and Hangartner, Dominik, Does Direct Democracy Hurt Immigrant Minorities? Evidence from Naturalization Decisions in Switzerland (July 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2022064 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2022064

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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