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Science  22 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6126, pp. 1361
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6126.1361-a

Do I, a citizen of a country, want a legally resident immigrant to enjoy the rights of citizenship? There are, of course, many characteristics of an immigrant—such as country of origin, education or professional attainment, and language fluency—that might influence my answer. Hainmueller and Hangartner assess how citizens incorporate these factors into their votes for or against individual citizenship applications. They examined 2400 naturalization referendums held over a 30-year period in 40 Swiss municipalities; voters were supplied with detailed descriptions of each applicant before secret balloting. For otherwise comparable applicants, there was a large effect of country of origin (northern and western Europe favored over Turkey), a small effect of human capital status (skilled over unskilled), and no effect of proficiency in Swiss German. They went on to calculate that statistical discrimination (group membership) accounted for almost half of the country effect, with highly skilled or educated Turkish immigrants losing out by only 7 to 8 percentage points. Further analysis of temporal trends revealed that the remaining country of origin penalty could be linked to xenophobic attitudes evoked by feelings of out-group threat, or in other words, taste-based discrimination.

Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 107, 159 (2013).

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