Relational Skill Assets and Anti-Immigrant Sentiments

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 7:00 PM
Room: Booth 42
Distributed Paper
Cheol-Sung LEE , University of Chicago, IL
Naeyun LEE , University of Chicago
This study introduces a new variable in the area of sociology of professions: relational dimensions of occupational skills. Although previous studies have underscored the importance of cognitive skill assets in migration processes and attitudes toward out-group populations, the importance of relational skills has not received much attention. In this paper, we highlight the role of relational dimensions of skill assets in explaining native workers’ attitudes’ toward immigrants, by using a General Social Survey module (National Identity 2004). We construct two dimensions of relational skills: interpersonal and instrumental skill assets at the occupational level. We conceptualize the former as an entrance skill barrier against immigrants and the latter as a pulling factor that attracts skilled or unskilled immigrant work forces. Then, we create a new independent variable, “relational skill specificity,” which is a relative measure of interpersonal skills over instrumental skills in one’s occupation. Our hypothesis is that workers employed in jobs requiring a higher possession of interpersonal skills over the entire skill assets are less likely to develop strong anti-immigrant sentiments. The effects of relational skill specificity are highly significant and remain robust against different specifications, controlling for individual-level education and citizenship status along with other conventional cognitive skill-variables, demographic, religious and political variables. The findings suggest that different levels of anti-immigrant sentiments between skilled manual workers (e.g. craftsmen), and skilled non-manual workers (e.g. professionals), originate not only from different levels of cognitive skills but also from varying levels (or compositions) of relational skills. Overall, the findings of this study provide a novel pathway of causal explanation of how native individual workers develop their anti-immigrant sentiments. It also attempts to advance our understanding of occupation-based social stratification processes, ethnic competition in the labor market, and attitudinal studies of race and minorities.