Slotwinski, Michaela and Alois Stutzer

The Deterrent Effect of Voting Against Minarets: Identity Utility and Foreigners’ Location Choice

This paper uses the vote on the Swiss minaret initiative as a natural experiment to identifythe causal effect of negative attitudes towards immigrants on foreigners’ location choices andthus indirectly on their utility. Based on a regression discontinuity design with unknowndiscontinuity points and administrative data on the population of foreigners, we find that theprobability of their moving to a municipality that unexpectedly expressed strong reservationsdecreases initially by about 60 percent. The effect levels off over a period of about 5 months.Consistent with a reduction in the identity utility for immigrants in general, the reaction is notconfined to Muslims, whereby high-skilled foreigners seem to be most sensitive to the newlyrevealed reservations