Population size, perceived threat, and exclusion: A multiple-indicators analysis of attitudes toward foreigners in Germany

Moshe Semyonov, Rebeca Raijman, Anat Yom Tov, Peter Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The major objective of the present research is to examine the long-standing theoretical proposition that hostility and discriminatory attitudes toward out-groups are likely to rise with relative size of the out-group population. Using data from The German General Social Survey (ALLBUS, 1996) we provide, for the first time, an examination of the impact of both actual and perceived size of the foreign population on discriminatory attitudes toward foreigners. Specifically, by using a multiple-indicators analytical model, we examine the theoretical proposition that perceived threat posed by an out-group population mediates the relations between size of the out-group and exclusionary attitudes toward the out-group. The analysis does not support the theoretical expectation that actual size of the foreign population in the locale is likely to increase either perception of threat or exclusionary attitudes. Perceived size, however, is found to be associated, as expected, with perceived threat, and perceived threat is found to mediate the relations between perceived size and support for exclusionary practices against foreigners-the higher the perceived size, the more pronounced are both the threat and anti-foreigner attitudes. The findings and their significance are discussed in the light of sociological theories on the relations between minority size and discrimination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-701
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Earlier version of the paper presented at the Meeting of the Research Committee on Social Stratification and Mobility, Berkeley, CA, August 2001. The research reported in this paper was supported by Grant No. 596-154-04198 awarded by the German–Israel Foundation. The authors thank William Bridges, Tyrone Forman, Aribert Heyder, Irena Kogan, Evgeniya Kotsiubinski, Anthony M. Orum, Thomas Pettigrew, and anonymous reviewer for help and advice.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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