Understanding migrant deservingness in multi-ethnic societies


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Understanding migrant deservingness in multi-ethnic societies
Gandenberger Mia K.
Bonoli Giuliano
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
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The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity to study how humans allocate scarce resources in times of hardship. We study public preferences regarding who should get access to government aid for the self-employed, a bed in the intensive care unit, and permission to cross the border using original conjoint survey experiments administered to an incentivised online panel in Switzerland during the first and second waves of the pandemic in 2020. We find that across the three areas, even in extraordinary circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluations of deservingness to aid and support are still based on an underlying logic of conditional solidarity and identity: in all experiments, contributing to the community, be it through past actions and contributions or through current efforts, plays a crucial role in determining an individual’s deservingness as does their nationality (and legal status) with nationals being perceived as more deserving than non-nationals.
Research on perceptions of deservingness to welfare state services has to date mainly focused on cash benefits. In this paper, we expand existing research by studying public attitudes towards prioritization in access to social investment services, specifically, subsidised childcare. Based on the well-established corpus of deservingness research, previous findings on social investment policies, and recent work on the varieties of social investment, we expect the traditional deservingness criteria to matter in a slightly adjusted manner and for results to vary across countries. To test our argument, we rely on an original survey experiment conducted in the summer/fall of 2021 in six Western countries (Denmark, Sweden, Germany Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States). We find that cross-national patterns of responses broadly reflect the categorisation of three types of social investment, that is, inclusive, stratified, and targeted social investment (Häusermann et al., 2022). Further, we find that some of the well-known determinants of deservingness perceptions play an important role in the attribution of priorities of parents who need childcare: most clearly need (both financial and in terms of reconciling work and family life) and identity (operationalised with the parents’ nationality and their length of residency). This is true in all six countries covered. We conclude that patterns of deservingness perceptions to subsidized childcare services are determined by a mix of institutional factors (that differ across welfare regimes) and more fundamental attitudes towards helping those in need.
Increasingly diverse societies are faced with the question of who deserves to be included in redistributive arrangements and who does not. Such assessments of deservingness are made based on a set of fixed criteria: need, identity, control, effort, and reciprocity (see e.g. Knotz et al., 2021a; Petersen et al., 2010; Petersen, 2015; van Oorschot, 2000, 2006; van Oorschot et al., 2017). With respect to identity, others note an “insurmountable immigrant penalty” (Reeskens & van der Meer, 2019) for foreign-born individuals. Here, I expand previous investigations into this lower deservingness of immigrants by including citizens born abroad in the pool of potential claimants for unemployment benefits. Based on an original survey experiment fielded in the summer/fall of 2021 in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, I show that it is neither an “immigrant penalty” per se nor a “citizenship reward” but rather a question of membership to the collective “us”. Namely, those who do not formally (non-citizens) or informally (foreign-born) belong are perceived as less deserving than those who do (citizens born in the country). I also find variation across the six countries under investigation.
COVID 19, deservingness perceptions, solidarity, conjoint experiment
Create date
01/03/2023 13:19
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12/05/2023 6:55
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