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Title: Essays on Immigration and Political Economy
Author: Romarri, Alessio
Director/Tutor: Vázquez Grenno, Javier
Durante, Rubén
Keywords: Política econòmica
Migració (Població)
Economic policy
Migration (Population)
Issue Date: 2-Jul-2021
Publisher: Universitat de Barcelona
Abstract: [eng] Understanding what drives individuals to vote for parties or individuals who have often used violent rhetoric toward women and minorities and enacted discriminatory laws is critical. At the same time, it is crucial to comprehend what tools these forces use to gain consensus and, even more relevant, the consequences of having these political forces in power. This thesis attempted to help provide answers to the points listed above. Using different empirical techniques and analyzing different European settings, I aimed to enlarge the knowledge on the causes and consequences of the political success of far-right parties, how the new media influence citizens’ opinions, and which political parties have been advantaged (or harmed) from the recent paradigm shift in the communication process. The unifying theme of the chapters was the focus on immigration -- and, more specifically, on the relationship, analyzed in various aspects, between natives and immigrants. I started by asking whether the ability to access a potentially unlimited and relatively affordable medium of information -- the Internet -- changed the knowledge that natives have about migration patterns in their own country. Indeed, surveys and academic literature have found a strong misperception of natives, who vastly overestimate the number of foreigners in the country; besides, natives think immigrants are culturally and religiously more distant from them and are economically weaker -- less educated, more unemployed, and more reliant on and favored by government transfers -- than is the case. The second chapter of my thesis, Does the Internet change the attitude towards migrants? Evidence from Spain, showed that people exposed to the early Internet (from 2008 to 2012) are associated with a better knowledge of the (national) migration trends; additionally, the possibility to go online is responsible for an overall improvement in attitudes toward immigrants. The analysis, set in Spain, exploited a unique and confidential survey dataset and combined a difference-in-differences method with an instrumental variable approach. In the second part of the analysis, I demonstrated, using both survey data and real electoral outcome, that access to the Internet generates a decrease in the political support for the traditional Spanish right-wing party. Having extreme parties (or individuals) in power is no longer a remote possibility but a reality. This is the case both at the national and local levels. Understanding the effects on economic and social outcomes of these governments is both essential and underdeveloped in the literature. In the third chapter of my thesis, Do far-right mayors increase the probability of hate crimes? Evidence from Italy, I aimed to contribute to this emerging research area by focusing on the effect of electing local politicians on hate crimes against immigrants. Indeed, hate crimes are soaring in many countries, and many argue that a close relationship exists between the increased support for extremist parties and acts of violence toward immigrants and other minorities. Using an RD approach and focusing on the Italian context, where the presence of candidates belonging to anti-immigrant parties is significant and widespread in the territory, I showed that in municipalities where an extreme right-wing mayor is elected, the probability that a hate crime occurs is significantly higher. Municipalities with higher Internet access drive this effect; additionally, I demonstrated that the election of an extreme right mayor generates a change in behavior also in the surrounding municipalities. One element that many argue has contributed to the success of far-right parties is the recent refugee crisis that European countries have faced, primarily as a result of the Arab Springs and the violence that has resulted from them. Anti-immigrant parties have exploited this abnormal arrival of asylum seekers to increase the fear of natives and gain votes. However, this technique has not always proven successful. In the fourth chapter of this thesis, Is this the real-life or just fantasy? Refugee reception, extreme-right voting, and broadband internet, we studied the effect of a specific policy of relocation of asylum seekers in Italy (SPRAR) that involves opening medium-small centers and offering refugees the opportunity to interact with members of the local community. This micro-exposure to refugees had significant consequences on the voting choices of natives: using an instrumental variable approach, we showed that support for far-right parties is reduced in municipalities where a SPRAR center has been opened. However, this micro-exposure effect is smaller in higher macro-exposure areas to migrant news - i.e., in higher Internet exposure areas. There are some takeaways from this thesis. First, it is essential to point out how easily the Internet can convert from an information medium (Chapter 2) to an echo chamber that raises citizens' fears (Chapter 4) and pushes them to behave violently (Chapter 3). If this has been proven to be true for traditional media, such as newspapers and TV, this issue is even more delicate with the possibility of going online, considering the highly self-segregated news platform provided by the Internet. This opens the door to potential strands of research on the supply of extremist parties and the characteristics of their representatives. A natural question is why non-extremist parties have failed lately to offer equally charismatic leaders. Besides, since there is an emerging consensus that populists have pursued successful communication strategies, often via social media and the Internet, an additional related question is why mainstream parties are not able to follow suit. Second, as we expect more and more extremist parties to come to power in the near future, careful analyses of their governments' impact are crucial. These should focus on traditional economic outcomes, such as investments, trade, and wages; however, as demonstrated by the third chapter, these analyses should assess the effect of extremist governments on elements that ensure freedoms essential to democracies, such as the independence of media and judicial bodies and the quality of their bureaucrats. It is pivotal to monitor whether these administrations are responsible for discrimination in labor access, health care, and education. At the same time, future research should focus on how mainstream governments can defend themselves against the threat of the arrival of extremist parties. Lastly, a final thought on the management of refugees and, more generally, migration policies in Europe is necessary. The evidence suggests that the aggregate economic impact of immigration on receiving countries is likely to be positive. However, to dismantle extremist parties' rhetoric, which associates the presence of migrants with negative social repercussions related to crime, the drain of social welfare benefits, and cultural differences, two elements are necessary. First, increase the level of awareness among the local population. Second, as highlighted by chapter four, implement reception policies that generate integration and interaction between natives and immigrants.
Appears in Collections:Tesis Doctorals - Facultat - Economia i Empresa

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