Gerda Hooijer and Georg Picot. 2015. ‘European Welfare States and Migrant Poverty. The Institutional Determinants of Disadvantage’. Comparative Political Studies, 48(14), 1879-1904. [PDF] [Supplement] [Publisher link]          

In almost all European welfare states, immigrants face a higher risk of poverty than natives, but the gap between the two groups varies. In examining this variation, our article contributes to the nascent literature on the impact of welfare states on immigrants. We hypothesize that whether immigrants benefit from welfare generosity depends on three intervening factors: immigration policy, labor market regulation, and welfare eligibility rules. We use fuzzy-set analysis to examine the interplay of these determinants in 16 West-European states. The findings show that in most countries a high migrant disadvantage results from the combination of a large share of humanitarian and family immigrants and generous social policies. The underlying mechanism is that ‘unwanted’ immigrants are institutionally impeded from full access to generous welfare states.

Working Papers

‘“They Take Our Houses”: Benefit Competition and the Erosion of Support for Immigrants’ Social Rights’. Under Review

Why do some individuals support immigrants’ social rights more than others?  While scholars in political economy expect that benefit competition reduces support among the poor, the evidence is limited. This seems largely due to the reliance on highly aggregated analyses and the neglect of the institutional context in which individuals form their preferences. I argue that the poor are more likely to reduce their support due to competition when benefit eligibility depends on income. Using individual-level panel data from the Netherlands and a novel measure of social housing competition, I show that low- and middle-income households become less supportive of immigrants’ social rights when more social housing in their municipality is allocated to refugees. By contrast, competition does not change support among the rich or the very poor. The findings suggest that benefit competition can erode support for immigrants’ social rights, and that it can influence electoral politics.

‘Labor Market Competition and Demands for Social Protection: Evidence from the United Kingdom and Ireland’.

Does labor market competition with immigrants spur demands for social protection? While scholars have consistently shown that economic insecurity increases support for redistribution, the findings related to labor market competition are more contested. To isolate the effect of labor market competition, I leverage the 2004 enlargement of the European Union (EU) which led to a rapid but uneven influx of EU immigrants across occupations in the United Kingdom and Ireland. From labor force surveys, I measure the share of immigrants in each occupation before and after the accession. Using panel data, I show that individuals became more supportive of redistribution when they experienced a large increase in the share of immigrants in their occupation after the enlargement. The findings suggest that when labor market competition occurs, individuals respond to the increased economic insecurity by demanding more social protection from the government.

Work in Progress

‘Culturally Dissimilar Immigration and Attitudes towards Redistribution and Eligibility’.

Although previous studies examined the relationship between the level of immigration and support for redistribution, few considered the cultural composition of immigration. I argue that the latter matters because it influences individuals’ willingness to help the poor. The more culturally dissimilar the poor are, the less empathy the native population feels for them, and the lower their support for a generous and inclusive welfare state for altruistic reasons. I capture the degree of cultural dissimilarity with data from the World Values Survey and bilateral immigration stock data from the OECD. In a multilevel analysis of the European Social Survey between 2002 and 2012, I demonstrate that rich voters are more opposed to redistribution when they live in a country with more culturally dissimilar immigration whereas poor voters remain strong supporters of redistribution regardless. By combining insights from Political Economy and Social Psychology, this paper advances our understanding of the effects of immigration on the politics of redistribution.

‘The New Critics of Welfare and Immigration’ (with Desmond King).