Reactive cosmopolitanism? Migrants' attachment to the EU as a response to social exclusion


Empirical research has established an integration paradox (IP), describing that higher educated immigrants often feel more socially excluded and thus less attached to their destination country than their lower-educated counterparts. However, previous literature illustrates that conceptions of belonging can be derived from various levels, including supranational or more cosmopolitan ones such as Europe or the world as a whole. Combining these insights with studies on reactive ethnicity, we investigate to what extent identifying as cosmopolitan may be a reaction to stronger perceptions of social exclusion, and whether this differs for higher and lower educated immigrants. Our contribution to the IP literature is threefold: First, we explore how the integration paradox applies to supranational belonging by investigating belonging to Europe. Second, we use recent probability-based panel data by studying German migrants in over 130 countries worldwide. Third, by measuring feelings of being left out, we measure perceived social exclusion more broadly than by discrimination alone, arguing that also more implicit and indirect forms of exclusion affect immigrants’ feelings of belonging. Preliminary fixed effects analyses show that intensified feelings of being left out increase European attachment among immigrants in non-European countries, which is solely driven by higher educated immigrants, as lower educated immigrants show no such reactive behaviour. Overall, the study offers a new perspective on the drivers of cosmopolitanism by integrating insights from studies on the IP and reactive ethnicity, thereby also raising questions about the importance of national group membership for so-called world citizens.