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Who is a ‘Deserving’ Immigrant? An Experimental Study of Norwegian Attitudes


Toril Aalberg, ISS, NTNU, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway. E-mail:


Previous research demonstrates that opposition to immigration increases when immigrant groups are seen as economically non-viable and burdened with distinctive and unassimilable cultural practices. However, no research to date has investigated the parallel relationship between attributes of individuals and willingness to admit these individuals as legal immigrants. This study examines Norwegians’ evaluations of individual immigrants. Using an experimental design, specific attributes of immigrants are manipulated, making them appear more or less likely to make an economic contribution and more or less likely to assimilate into Norwegian culture. It is found that the decision to admit individuals is predominantly influenced by the immigrant's economic background. Norwegians are especially supportive of highly skilled immigrants. The immigrant's race is also relevant, but the effect of racial cues varies between men and women. Immigrants with an Afrocentric appearance are more likely to be rejected by men, but accepted by women. The article recommends that immigration researchers measure public support for immigration at both the policy and individual immigrant levels.