Economic Inequality, Immigrants, and Selective Solidarity

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 132 (University of Glasgow)
Gabriele Magni , Political Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Two big challenges faced by European countries are growing economic inequality and increasing numbers of immigrants. Existing scholarship has explored – separately – the impact of economic inequality and immigration on preferences for redistribution. Still lacking, however, is a good understanding of how economic inequality and communal identity interact to shape help-giving and welfare support. To fill the gap, this paper asks: how does inequality affect residents’ willingness to provide help to ingroup and outgroup members, defined in terms of natives and immigrants? I argue that economic inequality leads to community-motivated selective solidarity, inasmuch as inequality generates opposite effects on willingness to help natives and immigrants. In times of greater economic disparities, concerns for distributional justice are limited to the ingroup. As a result, inequality decreases willingness to help immigrants and, at the same time, increases support for natives. I find evidence for my argument with both observational and experimental data. The analysis merges individual-level survey data from the European Social Survey with contextual macro-economic indicators from OECD countries. I then adopt multilevel models to explore willingness to help low-income natives and immigrants across different European countries. I also presents the results from an original survey experiment. The experiment relies on a treatment that increases inequality awareness and a conjoint analysis that presents pairs of welfare receivers whose attributes are randomly generated. This analysis is especially important in times of unprecedented levels of economic inequality and increasing numbers of immigrants in Europe.