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Moving Out of the Comfort Zone: How Cultural Norms Affect Attitudes toward Immigration

30.05.2023 14:00 CET Online Seminar Series of the Economics Dept.

Talk by Niklas Potrafke (Ifo Institut) as part of the Research Seminar Series of the IOS Economics Department.

We examine how cultural norms shape attitudes towards immigration. Using representative survey data on German university students, we exploit the stark cultural differences between East and West Germany to study whether moving to another cultural environment impacts these attitudes. We address the endogeneity of the decision to move by comparing students who moved across the East-West border with students who moved within East Germany. We also exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the exposure to the mechanism used for placing students at universities nationwide. Our results show that students’ attitudes towards immigration are shaped by the culture they were socialized in. Students who moved from East to West Germany were around 30 percent more likely to support immigration than students who moved within East Germany. Attitudes towards immigration also become more positive as the time spent in West Germany increases. Exploring potential mechanisms, we find evidence for transmission of cultural norms when movers interacted with fellow students in West Germany often.

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