Immigrant sentiment and labour market vulnerability: economic perceptions of immigration in dualized labour markets

  • Anthony KevinsEmail author
  • Naomi Lightman
Original Article


Recent years have seen an increase in concerns that labour market vulnerability and national economic performance might be interacting to foment more polarized opinions about immigration. This article uses European Social Survey and EU-SILC data from 23 countries to explore this potential relationship, examining attitudes about the economic impact of immigration. In doing so, it seeks to investigate how the link between labour market vulnerability and anti-immigrant sentiment may be shaped by both resource scarcity (in the economy as a whole) and job scarcity (on the labour market). Findings from the analysis are twofold. First, labour market vulnerability is indeed correlated with more negative beliefs about the economic contribution of immigrants, even controlling for related factors such as education and contract type. Second, this effect is moderated by GDP per capita (though not unemployment rates), with labour market insiders and outsiders holding more distinct attitudes in higher GDP countries; thus, although attitudes towards the economic contribution of immigrants are generally more negative in poorer countries, labour market vulnerability contributes to greater opinion polarization in stronger economies. It is therefore resource availability in the economy, rather than on the labour market, that appears to be crucial.


Labour market vulnerability Anti-immigrant sentiment Public opinion GDP Unemployment 



Anthony Kevins received financial support from a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (Grant no. 750556). Naomi Lightman received financial support from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant (File no: 430-2018-00062).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Utrecht University School of GovernanceUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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