Why Swiss-Germans dislike Germans: Opposition to culturally similar and highly skilled immigrants

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Series Details Vol.13, No.1, January 2011, p5-28
Publication Date January 2011
ISSN 1461-6696
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This paper considers two common assumptions that often arise in the empirical literature on xenophobia - namely that xenophobic attitudes are found mostly among the poorly educated, and that xenophobia mainly concerns immigrants from low social classes and from geographically and culturally disparate nations. These arguments will be discussed in the context of the migration of high-skilled Germans to Switzerland, a phenomenon that has increased markedly in the last few years, leading to major controversies. A survey conducted in the city of Zurich has shown that Germans are considered less likable than other Western Europeans. Over the course of our analyses, two arguments are tested. First, I consider whether the boundaries between culturally similar groups are actually less fragile than those occurring between more dissimilar groups. Following this line of reasoning, I consider whether Swiss-Germans perceive German immigration as a cultural threat. Second, I consider whether well-educated people in high positions or people who seek to improve their job positions may feel threatened by new arrivals who are similarly well-educated. This rationale corresponds to the classic argument that working class people are xenophobic out of a fear that immigrants will take their jobs. Ultimately, this study finds empirical support for both arguments.

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