Immigrant Visibility and Xenophobia in Switzerland

Shabnam Shenasi, University of California, Los Angeles

The purpose of this study is to answer the following overarching question: how does ethnic diversity impact xenophobia? This is an important question because native attitudes toward immigrants can impact immigrant integration outcomes. Many studies answer it by examining the effects of relative immigrant group size. Some scholars argue that a greater presence of immigrants leads to heightened perceptions of immigrant threat, or xenophobia. Others say that proximity to immigrants causes familiarity and thereby a reduction in anti-immigrant sentiment. I argue that immigrant group size increases xenophobia when immigrants are ethnically visible, crossing salient linguistic, religious, or racial boundaries. I test this thesis in the Swiss context using multilevel modeling. I find the expected relationship, except when group size is measured in terms of the racially visible. I discuss implications of findings for group threat theory and broader discussions about religious exclusion in Switzerland.

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 Presented in Session P6. Migration and Urbanization/Population, Development, and the Environment