The composition of the minority population as a threat: Can real economic and cultural threats explain xenophobia?

Mikael Hjerm, Kikuko Nagayoshi

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    73 Citations (Scopus)


    This article sets out to develop a classical theme of empirical research within group threat theory, namely the argument that the size of the minority population threatens the majority population. To be able to clarify the mixed empirical results within this version of group threat theory, the article focuses on the composition of the immigrant population. The article tests both objective sources of cultural threats (linguistic composition and the Muslim population) and economic threats (the proportion of working-class individuals and the unemployed among the immigrant population). The study concludes that, first, the composition of the immigrant population is of utter importance for the size argument to be valid for cultural threats (proportion of Muslim population), whereas for economic threats it does not matter. Second, compositional economic threats matter strongly to the group that genuinely competes for scarce resources - the working class is more xenophobic when the immigrant working class is large. Third, the study brings some clarity with regard to the cultural composition of the immigrant population: it is shown that the relationship between Muslims and European majority populations mirrors the relationship between whites and African-Americans in the US.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)815-843
    Number of pages29
    JournalInternational Sociology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2011 Nov


    • ESS
    • Europe
    • Muslim
    • attitude
    • culture
    • economic
    • group threat
    • majority
    • minority
    • prejudice
    • xenophobia

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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