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A higher level of migrants settling from Eastern Europeans makes West Europeans feel happier about immigration in general, a new study says.
The British Sociological Association’s annual conference in London heard on April 3 that people rated the economic and cultural benefits of immigration more highly the more East Europeans migrants there were in their country.
Anne-Marie Jeannet, a graduate student researcher at the University of Oxford, told the conference that she examined responses by 95,685 people in 15 West European countries (including Greece) to the European Social Survey from 2002 to 2010.
When asked to rate the effect on their economy of immigration on a scale of 0 (bad) to 10 (good), the highest score was given by people in Luxembourg at 6.3, and the lowest was in Greece, at 3.8.
By examining the changes over time Jeannet found as the number of migrants from Eastern Europe doubled, so the rating given for the economic benefits of immigration rose by 0.14 points (around 2.5 percent) and for cultural benefits by 0.08 points. These findings stand even when taking into account factors such as economic conditions and other immigration trends.
Jeannet, of St Cross College, described the results as “the results show a picture of tolerance in Europe, rather than intolerance, as levels of immigration rise.”
She also found that women saw migrants as less beneficial for the economy than men, scoring an average in the 15 West European countries of 4.7, 8% lower than men, at 5.1.
University-educated respondents rated the economic benefits of immigration with an average score of 5.7, which was 23% higher than those educated to secondary school standards (score of 4.4).
“It is unclear whether these findings are generalizable to other migrant populations. It might be that migrants from East European countries are not perceived as ‘different’ enough in Western European societies to increase resistance to immigration.
“This may be because Central and Eastern Europeans are not physically dissimilar to the natives in Western Europe. Furthermore, they share a certain general European norms and values. Given the similar shared characteristics, the findings of this study may not be applicable to migrant groups with greater cultural differences,” explained Jeannet.