Personal and Contextual Foundations of Welfare Chauvinism in Western Europe

24 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2021

See all articles by Conrad Ziller

Conrad Ziller

University of Duisburg-Essen

Romana Careja

University of Southern Denmark

Date Written: March 4, 2021


Europe has faced an increase in immigration during the past decades. This development has triggered public and political debate about the integration of immigrants, which includes immigrants’ access to social security systems. At the same time, a classical anti-immigrant narrative is that immigrants are “free-riders” who receive social benefits without having contributed adequately. Welfare chauvinism in the context of immigration entertains this belief, and refers to the individual perception that welfare state access should remain the preserve of native-born citizens. As such, welfare chauvinism is—in its core—about how group-based social inequality is perceived and justified.

This chapter reviews personal and contextual foundations of welfare chauvinistic beliefs in immigrant-receiving societies in Western Europe. First, we focus on matters related to the conceptualization and measurement of welfare chauvinistic attitudes. Second, we review theoretical mechanisms and empirical evidence on individual-level factors that underlie welfare chauvinistic beliefs. This includes individuals’ social status, perceived deprivation, as well as value-related orientations. Third, we examine contextual determinants referred to in the literature. In addition to the presence of immigrants and asylum-seekers, which has been heightened as an influential factor in intergroup conflict approaches, we examine the role of economic, political and institutional factors. Fourth, we conduct an empirical analysis using two waves of the European Social Survey merged with contextual country-level information on economic, immigration-related and policy-related factors. The article concludes by referring to recent conceptual developments and methodological advances (e.g., longitudinal research and experiments), as well as open questions that should be addressed in future research on welfare chauvinism in immigrant-receiving societies.

Suggested Citation

Ziller, Conrad and Careja, Romana, Personal and Contextual Foundations of Welfare Chauvinism in Western Europe (March 4, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Conrad Ziller (Contact Author)

University of Duisburg-Essen ( email )

Lotharstrasse 1
Duisburg, 47048

Romana Careja

University of Southern Denmark ( email )

Campusvej 55
DK-5230 Odense, 5000

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