Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Attitudes toward Highly Skilled and Low-skilled Immigration: Evidence from a Survey Experiment

  • JENS HAINMUELLER (a1) and MICHAEL J. HISCOX (a2)
Abstract

Past research has emphasized two critical economic concerns that appear to generate anti-immigrant sentiment among native citizens: concerns about labor market competition and concerns about the fiscal burden on public services. We provide direct tests of both models of attitude formation using an original survey experiment embedded in a nationwide U.S. survey. The labor market competition model predicts that natives will be most opposed to immigrants who have skill levels similar to their own. We find instead that both low-skilled and highly skilled natives strongly prefer highly skilled immigrants over low-skilled immigrants, and this preference is not decreasing in natives' skill levels. The fiscal burden model anticipates that rich natives oppose low-skilled immigration more than poor natives, and that this gap is larger in states with greater fiscal exposure (in terms of immigrant access to public services). We find instead that rich and poor natives are equally opposed to low-skilled immigration in general. In states with high fiscal exposure, poor (rich) natives are more (less) opposed to low-skilled immigration than they are elsewhere. This indicates that concerns among poor natives about constraints on welfare benefits as a result of immigration are more relevant than concerns among the rich about increased taxes. Overall the results suggest that economic self-interest, at least as currently theorized, does not explain voter attitudes toward immigration. The results are consistent with alternative arguments emphasizing noneconomic concerns associated with ethnocentrism or sociotropic considerations about how the local economy as a whole may be affected by immigration.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Jens Hainmueller is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 (jhainm@mit.edu).
Michael J. Hiscox is Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs, Department of Government, Harvard University, 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 (hiscox@fas.harvard.edu).
References
Hide All
Bauer T. K., Lofstrom M., Zimmerman K. F.. 2000. Immigration Policy, Assimilation of Immigrants, and Natives' Sentiments towards Immigrants: Evidence from 12 OECD-Countries. IZA Discussion Paper No. 187, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
Bertrand M., Mullainathan S.. 2001. “Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data.” American Economic Review 91 (2): 6772.
Betts K. 1988. Ideology and Immigration: Australia, 1976 to 1987. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
Bhagwati J. 2002. The Wind of the Hundred Days: How Washington Mismanaged Globalization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Borjas G. 1999. Heaven's Door. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Borjas G. 2003. “The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 118 (4): 1335–74.
Borjas G. 2005. Native Internal Migration and the Labor Market Impact of Immigration. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Borjas G., Freeman R., Katz L.. 1996. “Searching for the Effect of Immigration on the Labor Market.American Economic Review 86 (2): 246–51.
Borjas G., Freeman R., and Katz L.. 1997. “How Much Do Immigration and Trade Affect Labor Market Outcomes?” In Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 1997:1, Macroeconomics, eds. Perry George L. and Brainard William C.. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 190.
Brezis E., Krugman P.. 1993. Immigration, Investment, and Real Wages, NBER Working Paper 4563, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
Burns P., Gimpel J.. 2000. “Economic Insecurity, Prejudicial Stereotypes, and Public Opinion on Immigration Policy.” Political Science Quarterly 115 (3): 201–25.
Callegaro M., DiSogra C.. 2008. “Computing Response Metrics for Online Panels.” Public Opinion Quarterly 72 (5): 1008–32.
Campbell A., Converse P. E., Miller W. E., Stokes D. E.. 1960. The American Voter 1960. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Card D. 1990. “The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 43 (2): 245–57.
Card D. 2001. “Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration.” Journal of Labor Economics 19 (1): 2264.
Card D. 2005. “Is the New Immigration Really So Bad?.” Economic Journal 115 (507): F300F323.
Card D. 2007. How Immigration Affects US Cities. Technical report, CReAM Discussion Paper, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, University College London.
Case C. E., Greeley A. M., Fuchs S.. 1989. “Social Determinants of Racial Prejudice.” Sociological Perspectives 32: 469–83.
Chandler C. R., Tsai Y.-M. T.. 2001. “Social Factors Influencing Immigration Attitudes: An Analysis of Data from the General Social Survey.” Social Science Journal 38 (2): 177–88.
Citrin J., Green D.. 1990. “The Self-Interest Motive in American Public Opinion.” In Research in Micropolitics, Vol. 3, ed. Shapiro Robert. Greenwich: JAI Press, 128.
Citrin J., Green D. P., Muste C., Wong C.. 1997. “Public Opinion towards Immigration Reform: The Role of Economic Motivations.” Journal of Politics 59: 858–81.
Dustmann C., Preston I. P.. 2006. “Is Immigration Good or Bad for the Economy? Analysis of Attitudinal Responses.” Research in Labor Economics 24: 334.
Dustmann C., Preston I. P.. 2007. “Racial and Economic Factors in Attitudes to Immigration.” B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy 7 (1): Article 62.
Erikson R. S., Luttbeg N. R., Tedin K. L.. 1991. American Public Opinion: Its Origins, Content, and Impact. 4th ed.New York: Macmillan.
Espenshade T. J., Hempstead K.. 1996. “Contemporary American Attitudes toward U.S. Immigration.” International Migration Review 30: 535–70.
Facchini G., Mayda A.. 2009. “Does the Welfare State Affect Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants? Evidence across Countries.” Review of Economics and Statistics 91 (2): 295314.
Feenberg D., Coutts E.. 1993. “An Introduction to the TAXSIM Model.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 12 (1): 189–94.
Fetzer J. S. 2000. Public Attitudes toward Immigration in the United States, France, and Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fix M., Passel J.. 2002. “The Scope and Impact of Welfare Reforms Immigrant Provisions.” Washington, DC: Urban Institute. Discussion Paper 02-03.
Fix M., Passel J., Enchautegui M.. 1994. Immigration and Immigrants: Setting the Record Straight. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Friedberg R., Hunt J.. 1995. “The Impact of Immigrants on Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth.The Journal of Economic Perspectives 9 (2): 2344.
Gang I. N., Rivera-Batiz F. L., Yun M.-S.. 2002. Economic Strain, Ethnic Concentration and Attitudes towards Foreigners in the European Union. IZA Discussion Paper No. 578, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
Gaston N., Nelson D.. 2000. “Immigration and Labor-Market Outcomes in the United States: A Political-Economy Puzzle.” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 16 (3): 104–14.
Goot M. 2001. “Public Opinion on Immigration.” In The Australian People. 2nd ed., ed. Jupp James. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 824–26.
Green D., Gerken A.. 1989. “Self-Interest and Public Opinion toward Smoking Restrictions and Cigarette Taxes.” Public Opinion Quarterly 53 (1): 116.
Grossman G., Helpman E.. 1994. “Protection for Sale.” American Economic Review 84 (4): 833–50.
Hainmueller J., Hiscox M. J.. 2006. “Learning to Love Globalization: Education and Individual Attitudes toward International Trade.” International Organization 60 (2): 469–98.
Hainmueller J., Hiscox M. J.. 2007. “Educated Preferences: Explaining Attitudes toward Immigration in Europe.” International Organization 61 (2): 399442.
Hanson G. H. 2005. Why Does Immigration Divide America? Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics.
Hanson G., Scheve K., Slaughter M.. 2007. “Public Finance and Individual Preferences over Globalization Strategies.” Economics and Politics 19 (1): 133.
Hanson G., Scheve K., Slaughter M.. 2008. “Individual Preferences over High-Skilled Immigration in the United States.” In Skilled Migration Today: Prospects, Problems, and Policies, eds. Bhagwati Jagdish and Hanson Gordon. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 2444.
Harwood E. 1986. “American Public Opinion and U.S. Immigration Policy.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 487: 201–12.
Hero R., Preuhs R.. 2007. “Immigration and the Evolving American Welfare State: Examining Policies in the US States.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (3): 498517.
Jones R. 1971. “A Three-Factor Model in Theory, Trade, and History.” Trade, Balance of Payments, and Growth 1: 321.
Kessler A. 2001. Immigration, Economic Insecurity, and the “Ambivalent” American Public. Working Paper. La Jolla, CA: Center for Comparative Immigration Studies.
Kiewiet R., Kinder D.. 1981. “Sociotropic Politics.” British Journal of Political Science 11 (2): 129–61.
Kinder D., Sears D.. 1981. “Prejudice and Politics: Symbolic Racism versus Racial Threats to the Good Life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 40: 414–31.
King G., Murray C., Salomon J., Tandon A.. 2004. “Enhancing the Validity and Cross-Cultural Comparability of Measurement in Survey Research.” American Political Science Review 98 (1): 191207.
Krugman P., Obstfeld M.. 2000. International Economics: Theory and policy. 5th ed.Reading, MA: Addison–Wesley Longman.
Lahav G. 2004. Immigration and Politics in the New Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Leamer E., Levinsohn J.. 1995. “International Trade Theory: The Evidence.” In Handbook of International Economics, Vol. 3, eds. Grossman G. M. and Rogoff K.. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1339–94.
Lewis E. 2005. Immigration, Skill Mix, and the Choice of Technique, Philadelphia, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Research Dept.
Longhi S., Nijkamp P., Poot J.. 2005. “A Meta-Analytic Assessment of the Effect of Immigration on Wages.” Journal of Economic Surveys 19 (3): 451–77.
Mansfield E., Mutz D.. 2009. “Support for Free Trade: Self-Interest, Sociotropic Politics, and Out-Group Anxiety.” International Organization 63 (2): 425–57.
Mayda A. 2006. “Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants.” Review of Economics and Statistics 88 (3): 510–30.
Mayda A., Rodrik D.. 2005. “Why Are Some People (and Countries) More Protectionist than Others?European Economic Review 49 (6): 1393–430.
McLaren L. 2003. “Anti-immigration Prejudice in Europe: Contact, Threat Perception, and Preferences for the Exclusion of Migrants.” Social Forces 81 (3): 909–36.
McLaren L., Johnson M.. 2007. “Resources, Group Conflict, and Symbols: Explaining Anti-immigration Hostility in Britain.” Political Studies 55 (4): 709–32.
Mutz D. 1992. “Mass Media and the Depoliticization of Personal Experience.” American Journal of Political Science 36 (2): 483508.
Ottaviano G., Peri G.. 2008. Immigration and National Wages: Clarifying the Theory and the Empirics. NBER Working Paper 14188, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
Rowe G., Murphy M., Williamson M.. 2006. Welfare Rules Databook: State TANF Policies. Report by The Urban Institute.
Scheve K., Slaughter M.. 2001. “Labor Market Competition and Individual Preferences over Immigration Policy.” Review of Economics and Statistics 83 (1): 133–45.
Sears D., Funk C.. 1990. “The Limited Effect of Economic Self-Interest on the Political Attitudes of the Aass Public.” Journal of Behavioral Economics 19: 247–71.
Sears D., Lau R., Tyler T., Allen H.. 1980. “Self Interest vs. Symbolic Politics in Policy Attitudes and Presidential Voting.” American Political Science Review 74: 670–84.
Simon J. 1989. The Economic Consequences of Migration. Oxford: Blackwell.
Smith J. P., Edmonston B., eds. 1997. The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Zimmerman W., Tumlin K. C.. 1999. Patchwork Policies: State Assistance for Immigrants under Welfare Reform. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 82
Total number of PDF views: 1202 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 2934 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.