Book Chapter

The perception of social distance in a multi-ethnic society: the case of Taiwan

Chen, Y.-H., Yi, C.-C.
In: Fong, E., Chiang, L.-H. N., Denton, N. (Eds.): Immigrant adaption in multi-ethnic societies: Canada, Taiwan, and the United States, 170–198
Routledge advances in sociology 78
New York, Routledge (2013)


Since the late 1980s, Taiwan has been an important destination for many labor and marriage migrants from Mainland China and Southeast Asian countries. But, if Taiwan is to build a friendly environment for foreigners in an era of globalization, it is necessary to investigate public attitudes toward accepting migrants into Taiwanese society. Using data from the 2008 Taiwan Social Change Survey, this chapter examines the receptivity of Taiwanese society to migrants by using social distance as an index to compare various attitudes expressed toward foreign migrants from different countries. Our results point out that among six countries of origin—Japan, South Korea, Mainland China, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America—Taiwanese tend to be friendlier toward those from Japan, Europe and North America. The results of multinomial logistic regression models suggest that the net effects of socio-demographic characteristics, both cultural contact and cultural ideology, are crucial determinants in forming a largely positive attitude toward foreign migrants. We conclude that social exposure is indeed a significant mechanism accounting for positive attitudes, however, findings on occurrences of xenophobia and antagonism towards people from less-developed countries imply that both cultural proximity and economic developmental status contribute to the social distance between the Taiwanese and migrants.
Keywords: Taiwan, migration
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.