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Political Implications of Immigration

Martin Halla 1, Alexander Wagner2, Josef Zweimüller2
1University of Linz, Austria, 2University of Zurich, Switzerland

Immigration control is high on the political agenda and part of any election campaign throughout Europe and the United States. Although immigration has potential positive effects on the receiving economy, negative aspects of immigration attract the most attention. Extreme rightwing parties with restrictive position towards immigration became very popular in many European countries. In this paper we study the relationship between the success of the extreme right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPOE) and several waves of (labour) immigration to Austria. Therefore, we utilize highly disaggregated data on election results in combination with census data. In a first step we exploit the spatial correlation approach to establish a clear causal link of immigration on the success of the FPOE. In a second step we show that this effect is higher for Muslim immigrants, increases with high unemployment of natives and decreases with the education of natives. Our results support the hypothesis that opposition to immigration is shaped by fears about labour market competition and non-economic concerns, such as cultural or racial prejudices. An understanding how such attitudes are formed is not only necessary to explain the growth of extremist anti-immigrant political movements, but also decisive for designing efficient migration policies.

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