Immigration, Cultural Distance and Natives' Attitudes Towards Immigrants: Evidence from Swiss Voting Results

54 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2014

See all articles by Beatrice Brunner

Beatrice Brunner

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Andreas Kuhn

University of Zurich; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Abstract

We combine community-level outcomes of 27 votes about immigration issues in Switzerland with census data to estimate the effect of immigration on natives' attitudes towards immigration. We apply an instrumental variable approach to take potentially endogenous locational choices into account, and we categorize immigrants into two groups according to the cultural values and beliefs of their source country to understand how the cultural distance between natives and immigrants affects this relationship.We find that the share of culturally different immigrants is a significant and sizable determinant of anti-immigration votes, while the presence of culturally similar immigrants does not affect natives' voting behavior at all in most specifications. The cultural distance between immigrant and native residents thus appears crucial in explaining the causal effect of immigration on natives' attitudes towards immigration, and we argue that the differential impact is mainly driven by natives' concerns about compositional amenities. We finally show that the elasticity of the share of right-wing votes in favor of the Swiss People's Party is much more elastic with respect to the share of culturally different immigrants than natives' attitudes themselves, suggesting that the party has disproportionally gained from changes in attitudes caused by immigrant inflows.

Keywords: instrumental variable, endogenous residential choice, cultural distance, cultural values and beliefs, voting behavior, attitudes towards immigration, immigration, rightwing votes

JEL Classification: D72, F22, J15, J61, R23

Suggested Citation

Brunner, Beatrice and Kuhn, Andreas, Immigration, Cultural Distance and Natives' Attitudes Towards Immigrants: Evidence from Swiss Voting Results. IZA Discussion Paper No. 8409, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2492436

Beatrice Brunner (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Winterhturerstr. 30
Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

Andreas Kuhn

University of Zurich ( email )

Bluemlisalpstrasse 10
Zurich, 8006
Switzerland

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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