Ethnic Heterogeneity and the Limits of Altruism

Eger, Maureen A. 2010. "Ethnic Heterogeneity and the Limits of Altruism." PhD Dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Washington.
Michael Hechter (Chair), Christine Ingebritsen (GSR), Lowell Hargens, Edgar Kiser, Steve Pfaff.

This dissertation explores the relationship between contemporary immigration-generated ethnic diversity and popular support for American and European welfare states. Drawing from theoretical and empirical research from across the social sciences, I derive the hypothesis that recent immigration negatively affects attitudes towards national welfare states. I test this "diversity-altruism hypothesis" in countries that vary across two important dimensions: contemporary welfare state institutions and historical institutions that impacted ethnic diversity. This project relies primarily on quantitative methods and employs a robust comparative strategy. Using country-specific data collected by scholars in each country and regional-level census data, I perform multilevel analyses of attitudes in Sweden (1986-2002), the Netherlands (1996-2006), and the United States (1980-2000). In addition, I use attitudinal data from 13 Western European countries, collected by the European Social Survey (2002-2004), and merge these data with institutional measures from the OECD, United Nations, and other sources. Taken together, the analyses in this dissertation provide empirical support for the diversity-altruism hypothesis. The comparative strategy reveals that immigration-generated diversity depresses support for welfare state attitudes regardless of a country's institutional features. However, these analyses also demonstrate that the relationship between diversity and altruism manifests itself in country- specific ways. Results suggest that countries' historical institutions and experiences with ethnic diversity play a more important role than contemporary national institutions in how diversity affects attitudes. This research contributes to a growing literature in sociology, political science, and economics, and its findings elucidate the challenges facing multiethnic societies.