Johanna Gereke, Joshua Hellyer, Jan Behnert, Saskia Exner, Alexander Herbel, Felix Jäger, Dean Lajic, Štěpán Mezenský, Vu Anh, Tymoteusz Ogłaza, Jule Schabinger, Anna Sokolova, Daria Szafran, Noah Tirolf, Susanne Veit, Nan Zhang
Demographic Change and Group Boundaries in Germany: The Effect of Projected Demographic Decline on Perceptions of Who Has a Migration Background

Sociological Science, 2022: 9, pp. 206-220
ISSN: 2330-6696

In many Western societies, the current “native” majority will become a numerical minority sometime within the next century. How does prospective demographic change affect existing group boundaries? An influential recent article by Abascal (2020) showed that white Americans under demographic threat reacted with boundary contraction—that is, they were less likely to classify ambiguously white people as “white.” The present study examines the generalizability of these findings beyond the American context. Specifically, we test whether informing Germans about the projected decline of the “native” population without migration background affects the classification of phenotypically ambiguous individuals. Our results show that information about demographic change neither affects the definition of group boundaries nor generates negative feelings toward minority outgroups. These findings point to the relevance of contextual differences in shaping the conditions under which demographic change triggers group threat and boundary shifts.