Abstracts (2020 workshop)

Session 1: Social diversity

How does increasing immigration affect ethnic minority groups?

Authors: Danying Li
Miguel R. Ramos
Matthew R. Bennett
Douglas S. Massey
Miles Hewstone

Discussant: Mathieu Ichou (INED)

Immigration has been increasing around the world. Academic work suggests that increasing immigration reduces social cohesion and subjective wellbeing. These studies, however, have mainly focused on the white majority. Using seven waves from the European Social Survey (2002-2014), we analyze data from 5,149 ethnic minority respondents living in 24 European countries. We examine the association between immigration and respondent wellbeing in the short and long term, mediated by perceived discrimination and generalized trust.

We find that in the short term immigration is associated with greater perceived discrimination, which in turn is associated with lower trust and wellbeing. In contrast, in the longer term, immigration is associated with lower perceived discrimination from ethnic minorities yielding greater generalized trust and perceived wellbeing. Although in the short term increased immigration may be associated with a decline in wellbeing, over the longer term it brings about social changes associated with a higher quality of life for ethnic minorities.

‍Intervening in Anti-Immigrant Sentiments: The Causal Effects of Factual Information on Attitudes Toward Immigration

Authors: Maria Abascal (New York U., US), Tiffany J. Huang, Van C. Tran

Discussant: Asad L. Asad (Stanford) TBC

Does factual information about immigration affect immigration policy preferences and beliefs about immigration’s impact on the host society? Do the perceived impacts of immigration mediate factual information’s impact on support for increased immigration? We address these questions using an original survey experiment with a nationally representative sample of 2,049 U.S. Americans. We provide respondents with factual information about immigrants’ English acquisition, impact on crime, impact on jobs and fiscal impact—four domains with common misperceptions. We find that reading factual information about the impact of immigration on crime, jobs, and taxes raises overall support for increased immigration. Reading factual information about the impact of immigration on crime, jobs and taxes also affects beliefs that are directly relevant to that information. Moreover, treatment-relevant beliefs mediate the effect of factual information on support for increased immigration. By contrast, information about English acquisition does not shift support for increased immigration or beliefs about its cultural impact. Our findings identify potential levers for changing anti-immigrant sentiments.

Session 2: Social Diversity and Mobility

Many Rivers to Cross:Social Identity, Cognition and Labour Mobility in Rural India

Authors:Sébastien Michiels, Christophe J. Nordman, and ‍Suneha Seetahul (U. of Sydney, Australia)

Discussant: Flore Gubert (IRD)

Despite substantial efforts to increase educational attainment in India, namely as a means to improve human capital levels, individual opportunities and social mobility, the Indian society remains strongly segregated on the lines of caste and gender. This paper proposes to investigate if skills and personality traits are determinants of income mobility in the medium run, by considering a broad range of potential determinants. Indeed, our study assesses which individual characteristics, if any, are related to income mobility in a strongly segmented labour market. In order to consider the relevance of our indicators in developing countries, we use adapted measures of cognitive skills (i.e. raven score, literacy and numeracy) and personality traits (Factors from the BFM and from our own analysis) as potential determinants of income mobility. We provide an interesting contribution to the empirical and theoretical literature on the link between skills and social mobility. First, our study aims to depict the mechanisms of income mobility in a rural setting, with strong labour market segmentation, using novel data and measures from Tamil Nadu (India). Moreover, by testing the relevance of the Big 5 model, in comparison to alternative measurements of personality traits, we assess whether this type of categorisation is adapted to Rural Tamil Nadu. The Five factor model (FFM) of personality was supposed to be universal and therefore cross-cultural. Laajaj et al (2019) point out the limitations of the Five-factor Model in non-WEIRD populations. An earlier study has pointed out that it may be difficult to replicate five-factor models in less educated societies (Church 2017). Based on this literature, our strategy is to implement our own factor analysis of the Big 5 long inventory questions in order to have indicators that correctly reflect the personality traits of our population of interest. We compare the results from our exploratory analysis to the original Five-Factor model. Last, we assess whether these personality traits (either our dimensions or the FFM) are determinants of income mobility, or if other determinants (e.g cognitive abilities – Raven, literacy, numeracy) are at play.

Migration Decision-Making: A Typology of Processes and Features

Authors: Mathias Czaika (Danube University Krems, Austria), Jakub Bijak, Toby Prike

Discussant: Filiz Garip (Cornell)

Migration decisions are taken in the context of personal needs and desires on the one hand, and uncertainty regarding outcomes of alternative options on the other. Information about the future and its opportunities is incomplete, and whether migration turns out as a personal success or failure depends mostly on circumstances that are ex ante unknown and ex post not fully under the control of the migration decision-maker. This article elaborates on four dimensions we consider critical in approaching the complex process of migration decision-making: first, the formation of migration aspirations, second, the cognitive rules for searching and evaluating information about migratory options, third, the timing and planning horizons for preparing and realising migratory decisions, and fourth, the locus of control and degree of agency in taking migration decisions. Based on a review of the current state of evidence, we identify avenues for future empirical research addressing knowledge gaps along these four dimensions of migration decision-making.

Session 3: The Future of Migration Politics

A Socio-Cognitive Approach To Future-Oriented Cognition

Authors: Ilka Vari-Lavoisier (U. Of Trento/U. Of Oxford, UK)

Discussant: Sorana Toma (ENSAE/Gent U.)

The perception of (and rhetoric about) the evolution of migratory flows is key to contemporary politics – but natives’ and policymakers’ perception of the future of migration has not been studied empirically, yet. To fill this gap, this paper compares forecasts regarding the evolution of migration (survey data collected from a representative sample of 1,405 natives at T0) to what actually happened (at T+1), using administrative data collected by a major immigration country, France. This empirical strategy brings new objective evidence to the study of political forecasting.

Extending the psychological literature on forecasting, it stresses that cognition needs to be studied in context. Future-oriented cognition draws on social, economic, and cognitive resources. At the crossroads of several fields – including the psychology literature on political forecasting, the sociological literature on network homogeneity, and the cognitive sciences literature on distributed cognition – this paper advances the existing knowledge by stressing the relevance of studying future-oriented distributed cognitive processes.

‍Immigration and The Future of The Welfare State in Europe

Authors: Alberto Alesina, Johann Harnoss And Hillel Rapoport (Paris School of Economics)

Discussant: Isabel Ruiz (Oxford)

We analyze the effect of immigration on attitudes to redistribution in Europe. Using data for 28 European countries from the European Social Survey, we find that native workers lower their support for redistribution if the share of immigration in their country is high. This effect is larger for individuals who hold negative views regarding immigration but is smaller when immigrants are culturally closer to natives and come from richer origin countries. The effect also varies with native workers’ and immigrants’ education. In particular, more educated natives (in terms of formal education but also job-specific human capital and occupation task skill intensity) support more redistribution if immigrants are also relatively educated. To address endogeneity concerns, we restrict identification to within country and within country-occupation variation and also instrument immigration using a gravity model. Overall, our results show that the negative .First-order effect of immigration on attitudes to redistribution is relatively small and counterbalanced among skilled natives by positive second-order effects for the quality and diversity of immigration.

Session 4: Policy Frames  

Policy Narratives in The Governance of Migration

Author: Virginie Guiraudon (Sciences Po, France)

Discussant: Nicholas Van Hear (Oxford)

When studying the construction of social phenomena such as migration as public problems, political scientists often pay attention to policy frames and policy narratives. Policy frames are crucial to determine the policy venues i.e. the institutional setting deemed relevant to debate and decide on certain issues. In the immigration policy field, we have seen competing securitarian, humanitarian, utilitarian and human rights framings of the same social phenomenon that each legitimate a particular type of actors and thus help create policy monopolies. Policy narratives are complementary to this process: they are causal stories that act as shortcuts to determine what the problem is and thus yet again the actors most likely to provide the solution – in this case, stories focus on the drivers of migration. In recent decades, in Europe, as in other OECD countries, Interior or Home Affairs ministries have gained an almost exclusive competence in this domain to the detriment of other administrations such as Employment and Social Affairs, a process fostered and accelerated by intergovernmental forums and EU competence in this domain since the 1990s.

The paper will thus focus on the “political work” that explain the policy monopoly of border and law and order administrations in the migration policy field beyond a tautological reference to the dominance of securitarian frames in policy and political declarations or the media. This implies refocusing on the theory of fields and policy narratives, on the various strategies by policy actors in the migration field that appropriate, ignore, or denounce available causal stories about migration. The paper focuses on some of them that bend and twist social science research focusing for instance on “push-pull factors” or “migration and development” and account for the marginal role of social science in this policy field.

How an Interdisciplinary Approach to Narrative Can Support Policy Making On Migration And Integration At The City Level

Author: Jacqueline Broadhead (Oxford, UK)

Discussant: Heidi Armbruster (U. of Southampton)

 This paper sets out how an interdisciplinary research agenda can support and enrich the development of narrative change strategies, which complement existing policy making tools on migration governance with strategic communications. It does this by analysing how these approaches have developed within cities, through movements such as Welcoming International and through dedicated organisations such as the Narrative Initiative, ICPA, Frameworks Institute and More in Common. The development of these approaches sits at a disciplinary crossroads between migration studies, political science and, increasingly, cognitive psychology and this paper sets out how insights from each of these disciplinary approaches can combine to support and critically analyse policy making processes. The paper utilises a knowledge exchange methodology which has worked co-productively over 3 years with cities on narrative change in the context of migration and integration, taking learning from 4 UK and US cities to illuminate and critically evaluate how policy makers and politicians navigate the process of defining and developing narrative change on migration and integration at the local level. 

Drawing on narrative framing approaches, most commonly from eg Lakoff (2008), policy makers and politicians have worked to identify and develop new frames, constructing and developing shared stories of place-based identity and belonging. Many stories about migration focus on three main areas, often deployed in combination with different points of emphasis; those focused on (border) control (eg Masaro 2019), the value of (the economic and other) contribution of migrants and refugees (eg Vargas-Silva and Sumption 2019) and the need for compassion, in particular towards refugees (eg Smith and Waite 2018, Armbruster 2019.) However, these stories often elide other frames which may appeal to broader groups, such as friendliness or hospitality. Segmentation analysis via political science demonstrates the presence of a majority group of ‘balancers’ whose views and values are distinctive from both those who are extremely anti migration and those who hold very positive views, but who are often not well represented in discourse on migration and its translation into policy making (Dennison and Dražanová 2018.) These findings, grounded in public opinion research, have potentially profound policy implications – cognitive psychology provides a method for translating these findings into narrative approaches. This paper sets out the research agenda and the policy implications – examining and critically analysing how policy makers use strategic communications as a policy tool on migration governance and integration.

Session 5: Religious Affiliations

Belonging Through Ritual: Evaluating the Effect
of Naturalization Ceremonies on Immigrant Integration

Author: Yossi Harpaz (Harvard U./ Tel-Aviv U., Israel)

Discussant: Zoe Given-Wilson (Royal Holloway) 

Social scientists have been paying increasing attention to global inequality. Scholars highlighted the role of citizenship as a sorting system that allocates vastly different packages of rights and entitlements to people in different countries. A key aspect of citizenship-based inequality pertains to the differences in value between the world’s passports. Passengers with “good” passports from rich, developed countries enjoy easy, visa-free mobility across borders while those with “bad” passports are subjected to stringent controls at borders and airports. This article explores the implications of this passport hierarchy in terms of status and prestige. I argue that people experience differences in travel freedom as status disparities. Easy, unhindered movement denotes a passenger’s high status, whereas mobility constraints produce shame and a sense of low status. This argument draws on sociological work that has demonstrated that status distinctions may emerge spontaneously where individuals are visibly sorted into differentially-treated categories, as well as psychological and cognitive literature that identified the characteristic patterns of perceptions, emotions and behaviors associated with status competition.

I provide empirical support for this argument by analyzing 100 in-depth interviews with people in Israel and Serbia who have acquired a second passport from an EU country on the basis of ancestry or ethnicity. The interviews allow me to reconstruct respondents’ experiences when traveling with EU and non-EU passports and their reported motives for acquiring dual citizenship. The analysis shows that respondents perceived international travel through the prism of status competition. In both cases, respondents routinely compared their travel freedom with others, and reported status-associated feelings of pride and shame, as well as behaviors aimed at keeping up with and surpassing others. Respondents in Serbia experienced the Serbian passport as a source of shame, as it often subjected them to visa requirements when visiting other European countries. They obtained EU passports to achieve equality with other Europeans and avoid being humiliated at borders. Israeli respondents, while satisfied with the travel freedom provided by the Israeli passport, were engaged in a competition with other Israelis over travel freedom and status. EU-Israeli dual citizens used their EU passports to gain small but conspicuous mobility advantages over other Israelis, such as using the EU-nationals line at airports. Such uses evoked feelings of pride and superiority which are associated with high status.

Claiming Asylum as Convert to Christianity:
Narrations, Expectations, Adaptations, And Misunderstandings

Authors: Lena Rose (Oxford, UK) and Zoe Given-Wilson

Discussant: Julien Larregue (ENS Cachan)

The arrival of more than five million refugees since 2015 has increased the fear among some European populations of losing their assumed cultural cohesion, ‘values’, and secular democratic nature. In order to stem rising populism, it is therefore urgent to understand how migrants and hosts make sense of each other. Previous investigations into Europe’s management of multiculturalism and religious pluralism have focused mostly on the accommodation of Islam in Western European societies, and the integration of the cultural and religious ‘other’, for example concerning the question of appropriate levels of public display of different religions (Mavelli & Wilson, 2017; Statham & Tillie, 2016; Torrekens & Jacobs, 2016). In this paper, we take a different approach, and focus instead on the expectations arising out of European nation-states’ own religious and historically Christian cultural identity in understanding how hosts and migrants make sense of each other. A unique lens through which this can be investigated are asylum proceedings that are based on conversion from Islam to Christianity.

Conversion to Christianity has become a commonplace ground of seeking asylum especially among Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers in Germany and the UK (ca 70% of all Iranian asylum applications give this reason, BAMF 2019), on the basis that new converts are at significant risk of being persecuted if they were to be sent back to their countries of origin (Akcapar, 2006). The assessment of these claims focuses on 1) the credibility of the applicant’s conversion and 2) on potential consequences in case of the applicant’s return to their country of origin. Decisions of these cases vary widely between different branches of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees/Home Office and different judges. The negotiations of the applications of newly converted Christian asylum seekers are insightful because they throw into relief how European legal authorities conceive of their own historically Christian identity and the expectations arising thereof for the newcomers.

We use data collected as part of the ongoing three-year project, Christianity on Trial, to investigate the expectations asylum judges have in assessing the credibility of narratives of asylum seeker converts. These include an analysis of 40 court decisions of asylum appeals based on conversion to Christianity in Germany, ethnographic observations of 10 administrative court hearings, and 15 interviews with judges, lawyers, pastors, and asylum seekers themselves. Given the lack of hard evidence, credibility assessments are based almost exclusively on the narratives of the asylum seeker themselves (Noll, 2005). However credibility indicators are bound by cultural beliefs and expectations, such as what is plausible human behaviour and how someone should tell their story (Herlihy, Gleeson & Turner, 2010). Furthermore, research has highlighted how trauma or PTSD negatively affect the ability of a claimant to provide a coherent narrative of their asylum reasons (Herlihy & Turner, 2015; Rogers, Fox, & Herlihy, 2015). Here we want to focus on the cultural expectations of the decisionmakers, which often lead to misunderstandings and negative outcomes for asylum seeker converts: for example, if they fail to recount their identity change and remodelling of their self in a logical and cohesive way, or if they focus on social or emotional impacts of their conversion rather than intellectual engagement with their new faith. Our joint approach of psychology, social cognition, socio-legal studies and the anthropology of religion promises to provide insights into how the challenge of cultural and religious ‘others’ to Europe’s cultural cohesion, ‘values’, and secularism is navigated, and will provide recommendations to achieve fairer asylum hearings of Christian converts.

Session 6: Exposure to Diversity


Authors: Isabel Ruiz and Carlos Vargas Silva (Oxford, UK)

Discussant: Olivia Spiegler (Oxford)

This paper explores the impact of the Brexit vote on the relative anxiety levels of the UK-born, EU migrants and non-EU migrants residing in the UK during the referendum. Our main analysis compares reports of high anxiety levels among the different population groups up to six months before and after the referendum. The results suggest that after the Brexit vote there was a 1.8 percentage point lower likelihood of reporting high levels of anxiety among EU migrants relative to the UK-born.

This effect was stronger in regions with greater support to remain in the EU, the same regions in which there was greater open solidarity with EU migrants. The economic link of a region to the EU (measured as share of regional exports destined to EU countries) does not play a major role. The Brexit vote led to higher anxiety levels for non-EU migrants relative to the UK-born, but the effect is not statistically significant in the main estimations. Results using data from 6 to 12 months before the referendum and the closest 6 months to the referendum suggests that there was no pre-referendum trend in terms of gaps in anxiety across the groups, particularly between EU migrants and the UK-born.

Exposure to Diversity in Urban Space and Stereotype Dispersion: A Survey Experiment

Authors: Kim Knipprath (U. of Amsterdam, The Netherlands), Maurice Crul, Isamintha Waldring, Xuechunzi Bai

Discussant: Van Tran (NYU)

Recent scholarship has become increasingly interested in studying how people perceive ethnic and cultural diversity within the confines of their own cities. Some scholars argue that urban diversity could lead to excessive stereotyping and exaggerated perceptions of difference. Other scholars argue that urban diversity could lead to the blurring of group stereotypes and the reduction of difference. In this paper, we draw on the stereotype content model to examine to what extent people living in Amsterdam distinguish between different migrant groups. Do they perceive large differences across migrant groups or do they tend to perceive groups as mostly similar? We argue that cognitive representations of migrant groups are not only shaped by group-based mechanisms but also by spatial mechanisms. That is, the way groups are perceived also depends on the particular urban space in which groups are encountered. Drawing on an urban space typology, we distinguish between public space, consumption space, institutional space and socialization space. We hypothesize that these four different urban spaces differentially impact cognitive representations of migrant groups. We use some early test data collected via an online pilot survey experiment to examine the feasibility of our research design for our upcoming large-scale survey experiment.

Session 7: Policy Implications

North American Attitudes toward Immigrants and Immigration in the Time of COVID-19: The Role of National Attachment and Threat

Authors: Victoria M. Esses (University of Western Ontario, Canada), Alina Sutter, Joanie Bouchard, Kate Choi, and Patrick Denise

Discussant: Lasana Haris (UCL)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as humanity’s greatest threat, with large-scale health and economic consequences for individuals and nations. It has also highlighted issues of national identity, and made salient cross-national differences in how nations are responding to the pandemic and whether they focus predominantly on protecting their own citizens or also consider the well-being of humanity in general. Previous research has demonstrated that perceptions of threat have implications for how people think about members of their own group and about those who are considered “outsiders.” At a national level, external threats to one’s nation can increase feelings of national cohesion and attachment, solidifying ties among co-nationals. At the same time, it can enhance the salience and narrow the boundaries of who is considered part of the national ingroup, leading to decreased acceptance of “foreigners.” This decreased acceptance of “foreigners” can further reinforce the strength of national boundaries, so that effects become bidirectional. In this context, in this paper we describe how perceptions of personal and national vulnerability and threat from COVID-19, strength of national identities, and adherence to an international worldview together shape attitudes toward immigrants and immigration in Canada and the United States. Because the rhetoric and reported responses to COVID-19 in Canada and the United States have differed greatly – with Canadians said to be more concerned with collective and international well-being than Americans – national comparisons will also be of interest. The data for this paper are being collected as part of a representative survey being conducted in Canada and the United States, with approximately 2,000 participants in each country. Measures of attitudes toward immigrants and immigration include stereotype content (perceived competence and warmth), zero-sum beliefs about immigrants, and overall attitudes toward immigrants and immigration. Results will be discussed not only in terms of implications for the treatment of immigrants and immigration policies while the pandemic rages, but for how nations will rebuild and recover when we emerge from this 21st century worldwide threat.

Does Immigration Enforcement Attract Low-Skilled Native Workers?

Authors: Pia Orrenius (Dallas FED, US) and Madeline Zavodn

Discussant: Mirna Safi (Sciences Po)

Research has shown that low-skill Hispanic immigrants move away from, and are deterred from moving to, areas that implement strict immigration policies. But what happens with low-skill US natives? Do they move into areas, or choose to remain in areas, that enact strict immigration enforcement measures? If native workers compete with immigrants for jobs, they may prefer areas with tougher immigration laws. However, these tougher laws may also hurt economic growth, lowering employment and investment and reducing labor demand. The literature so far has focused on how immigrants move in response to these laws, but this would be the first paper that looks at the mobility response to immigration enforcement among US natives.

Thanks to our funders and partners