Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 1043–1095 | Cite as

The deterrent effect of an anti-minaret vote on foreigners’ location choices

  • Michaela SlotwinskiEmail author
  • Alois Stutzer
Original Paper


In a national ballot in 2009, Swiss citizens surprisingly approved an amendment to the Swiss constitution to ban the further construction of minarets. The ballot outcome manifested reservations and anti-immigrant attitudes in regions of Switzerland which had previously been hidden. We exploit this fact as a natural experiment to identify the causal effect of negative attitudes towards immigrants on foreigners’ location choices and thus indirectly on their utility. Based on a regression discontinuity design with unknown discontinuity points and administrative data on the population of foreigners, we find that the probability of their moving to a municipality which unexpectedly expressed stronger reservations decreases initially by about 40%. The effect is accompanied by a drop of housing prices in these municipalities and levels off over a period of about 5 months. Moreover, foreigners in high-skill occupations react relatively more strongly highlighting a tension when countries try to attract well-educated professionals from abroad.


Attitudes Foreigners Location choice Popular initiative Regression discontinuity design 

JEL Classifications

D83 J61 R23 Z13 



Data on the foreign resident population was kindly provided by the Federal Statistical Office in cooperation with the State Secretariat for Migration. We are grateful to Bruno Frey, Ulrich Matter, Armando Meier, Reto Odermatt, Markus Roller, Kurt Schmidheiny, Simone Schotte, and Conny Wunsch for detailed discussions and many seminar participants for insightful comments as well as three anonymous referees and the Editor Klaus F. Zimmermann for their guidance in improving this paper. We are further grateful to Jack Porter and Ping Yu for sharing the basic code of their method. Michaela Slotwinski acknowledges financial support from WWZ Forum, the NCCR - On the Move funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Sinergia Grants 130648 and 147668 of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Funding information

This study was funded by the National Center of Competence in Research - The Migration-Mobility Nexus financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the WWZ Forum, and the Sinergia Grants 130648 and 147668 of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Business and EconomicsUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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