Opposing Low-Skilled Immigrants: Labor Market Competition, Welfare State and Deservingness

32 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2012 Last revised: 10 Apr 2014

See all articles by Marc Helbling

Marc Helbling

University of Bamberg

Hanspeter Kriesi

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Date Written: August 6, 2012

Abstract

While various studies have already shown that people prefer high- over low-skilled migrants we know surprisingly little why this is so. This paper tries to close this gap by investigating three explanatory models. (1) According to the labor market competition model, citizens oppose immigrants with the same skill levels who are perceived as competitors on the job market. (2) According to the welfare state model low-skilled immigrants’ use of public services is disproportionally higher than their contribution to tax revenues contrary to high-skilled immigrants. (3) According to the deservingness model high-skilled immigrants are preferred as low-skilled immigrants are considered as lazy people who would be as well off as natives if they only tried harder.

As one of the first studies outside the US these arguments are tested by means of an experimental online survey in Switzerland. Respondents were randomly assigned to evaluate low- and high-skilled immigrants. We find that different groups prefer high- over low-skilled immigrants for different reasons: While the labor market competition model does nort play a role, the welfare state model only holds for natives who are well off in regions with low taxes. Finally, attitudes on deservingness explain preference of high-skilled immigrants only if the respondents have a high income.

Keywords: International Migration, Political Economy, Deservingness, Welfare State, Labor Market

JEL Classification: F22, C9

Suggested Citation

Helbling, Marc and Kriesi, Hanspeter, Opposing Low-Skilled Immigrants: Labor Market Competition, Welfare State and Deservingness (August 6, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2125263 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2125263

Marc Helbling (Contact Author)

University of Bamberg ( email )

Feldkirchenstrasse 21
Bamberg, 96045
Germany

Hanspeter Kriesi

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

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