Different experiences of migrants

Charles Jacobs

07 December 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

The wealth and location of the suburb in which people live can have a major impact on their experience with migrants. But assumptions about how these experiences influence views on immigration may explain why many politicians and commentators believe concerns over immigration are a ‘fringe’ issue.

Drawing on 2016 ABS Census data to statistically map the socioeconomic characteristics of migrants according to the household income bracket of the postcode where they live, our new paper, Mapping migrants: Australians’ wide-ranging experiences of immigration, reveals vastly differing tendencies.

Migrants in wealthy suburbs are distinctly more likely to have higher paid jobs and better English and education.

Migrants who live in lower income areas are likely to be less educated, speak less English and have lower paid jobs.

The divisions are even more pronounced when it comes to newer wave migrants, who typically arrive under skilled migration visas.

The data demonstrates that Australians do not have a uniform experience with migrants. Despite this, our attitudes towards immigration are relatively similar. The research found that, despite our different experiences, there is broad-based concern over congestion and infrastructure backlogs, as well as how migrants integrate into Australian society.

While issues like the ability to speak English and find employment are important to both groups, perhaps people in wealthy areas see the benefits of migrants integrating, while those in poorer areas see more of the downsides of not being able to speak English and participate in the economy.

However, the false expectations around these divergent experiences could go some way to explaining the stereotypical narratives harnessed by politicians on both sides of the spectrum.

What this suggests is that politicians’ narratives are selectively using both the positive and negative elements of Australia’s lived immigration experience, rather than their actual views, to shape their political agenda.

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