Internalized Ethnic and Cultural Reconfiguration: Natives' Reactions to Increasingly Heterogeneous Immigrant Population

Funding details

Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Alexander Schmidt-Catran

Duration: 1.10.2021- 30.09.2025

This project is part of the DFG Research Group RISS / FOR 5173, RISS Project Nr. 4

Funding agency: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation)

Overview of project

This project investigates cultural and economic group conflicts between natives and immigrants and explores the consequences of such conflicts for redistributive preferences and social cohesion. These research fields gained considerable attention in recent years, particularly since recognized scholars claimed that immigration may be generally incompatible with a large welfare state and a cohesive society (Alesina & Glaeser 2004; Putnam 2007). The underlying argument behind these claims is that the characterization of immigrants as out-group members undermines natives’ social trust and support for redistribution. As part of the RISS Research Unit, this project takes a fresh look at these prominent research topics by integrating them into the overarching theoretical framework of RISS. This framework emphasizes the interplay between the changing social structure at the macro-level and the social identity of actors at the micro-level. The data collection within the RISS project will provide innovative empirical measures of these two important concepts and thereby allow to contribute to the existing research from two directions. First, the role of the social-psychological process of social identification will be investigated and allow to better understand the process of in-group-out-group classifications. These psychological mechanisms reside at the micro-level foundation of the aforementioned claims. Second, the social structure at the macro-level will be measured as a multi-dimensional concept; thereby allowing to test how the integration of immigrants into various dimensions of the social structure mitigates the potentially conflict laden relationship between immigrants and natives. With increasing integration into the host societies, immigrants occupy more cross-cutting positions in the multi-dimensional social structure. This increasing heterogeneity within the immigrant population may reduce the saliency of group boundaries between immigrants and natives. Consequently, group conflicts, as well as their prominent consequences—such as decreasing social trust or reduced support for redistributive policies—may be generally reduced in a reconfigured social structure, where the vertical and horizontal dimensions become less associated. Using a complementary approach to the other projects in the RISS Research Unit, this proposal looks at the effects of the reconfiguration of social structure from a contextual perspective. The integration of immigrants into the multi-dimensional social structure will be measured at the contextual level. Employing multilevel models, the project will study how integration affects the relationship between immigrant presence and natives’ in-group-out group classifications; and, consequently, their attitudes towards redistribution and their levels of social trust.