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The Cost of Inclusion: Public Opinion on the Cultural and Economic Bases of Immigrant Inclusion across Western and Central/Eastern Europe


This dissertation examines the determinants of immigrant sentiments and support for immigration in Europe using a comparative framework that focuses on new contexts of reception in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries. In the last two decades, the social and political landscapes across Europe were reshaped by economic and humanitarian crises. Conflicts in Syria resulted in an unprecedented number of refugees seeking protection in Europe and raising public concerns over how, and to what extent, foreign-born populations fit into the European fabric. Global inequalities and conflicts compound the pressures of modern immigration, inflating both the number of people forced across international borders and the negative discourse surrounding them. European concerns over growing immigrant populations and dissolving national borders are therefore contingent on the cultural contexts that feed into conceptions of nationhood and socioeconomic generalizations attributed to immigrant groups.

Using European Social Survey data and Eurostat indicators from 2002-2018, this dissertation investigates (1) patterns of regional change, (2) the influence of economic and cultural biases on immigrant sentiments, and (3) the extent to which urban/rural contexts characterize these attitudes across Western and CEE countries. Building on current immigration research by examining the application of theories of immigration and integration in new contexts of reception, and, ultimately, testing the veracity of a vast sociopolitical divide between Western and CE Europe.

Findings suggest that although immigrant sentiments are diverging across Western and CEE countries, compositional and value-driven factors can explain contexts in which Europeans in either region feel greater tolerance and acceptance toward immigrants. The extent to which data reflect a salient divide depends therefore on how contexts are frame immigrant characteristics and contributions. Findings across economic cleavages in CEE countries also suggest that the cumulative risk of poverty and isolation is slowly but steadily diminishing in this region, and that immigrants are experiencing the fastest rate of improvement in their personal economic security. Using literature and theories in immigration, nationalism, and political science, the broader contribution of expanding research into new contexts of immigrant reception can be translated into policy implications with actionable, data-driven recommendations.

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