Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-n6p7q Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-27T12:41:22.024Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Educated Preferences: Explaining Attitudes Toward Immigration in Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 April 2007

Jens Hainmueller
Government Department at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass, E-mail:
Michael J. Hiscox
Government Department at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass, E-mail:
Get access


Recent studies of individual attitudes toward immigration emphasize concerns about labor-market competition as a potent source of anti-immigrant sentiment, in particular among less-educated or less-skilled citizens who fear being forced to compete for jobs with low-skilled immigrants willing to work for much lower wages. We examine new data on attitudes toward immigration available from the 2003 European Social Survey. In contrast to predictions based on conventional arguments about labor-market competition, which anticipate that individuals will oppose immigration of workers with similar skills to their own but support immigration of workers with different skill levels, we find that people with higher levels of education and occupational skills are more likely to favor immigration regardless of the skill attributes of the immigrants in question. Across Europe, higher education and higher skills mean more support for all types of immigrants. These relationships are almost identical among individuals in the labor force (that is, those competing for jobs) and those not in the labor force. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, then, the connection between the education or skill levels of individuals and views about immigration appears to have very little, if anything, to do with fears about labor-market competition. This finding is consistent with extensive economic research showing that the income and employment effects of immigration in European economies are actually very small. We find that a large component of the link between education and attitudes toward immigrants is driven by differences among individuals in cultural values and beliefs. More educated respondents are significantly less racist and place greater value on cultural diversity than do their counterparts; they are also more likely to believe that immigration generates benefits for the host economy as a whole.The authors would like to thank Beth Simmons, Shigeo Herano, Mike Tomz, James Alt, Jeffry Frieden, Ron Rogowski, Ken Scheve, Torben Iversen, Andy Baker, and Peter Gourevitch for helpful comments on earlier drafts.

Research Article
© 2007 The IO Foundation and Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Allport, Gordon W. 1954. The Nature of Prejudice. Reading, Mass.: Addison & Wesley.
Angrist, Joshua D., and Adriana D. Kugler. 2003. Protective or Counter-Productive? Labor Market Institutions and the Effect of Immigration on EU Natives. Economic Journal 113 (488):30211.Google Scholar
Bauer, Raymond A., Ithiel de Sola Pool, and Lewis Anthony Dexter. 1972. American Business and Public Policy: The Politics of Foreign Trade. 2d ed. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.
Betts, Katherine. 1988. Ideology and Immigration: Australia, 1976 to 1987. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press.
Betz, Hans-Georg. 1994. Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Bhagwati, Jagdish. 2000. Comment on Economic Research and the Debate over Immigration Policy. In Social Dimensions of U.S. Trade Policies, edited by Alan V. Deardorff and Robert Mitchell Stern, 8794. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Bhagwati, Jagdish. 2002. The Wind of a Hundred Days. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Borjas, George. J. 1999a. Heaven's Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Borjas, George. J. 1999b. The Economic Analysis of Immigration. In Handbook of Labor Economics, edited by Orley Ashenfelter and David Card, 1697760. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: North-Holland.
Borjas, George. J. 2003. The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market. Quarterly Journal of Economics 118 (4):133574.Google Scholar
Borjas, George J., Richard Freeman, and Lawrence Katz. 1996. Searching for the Effect of Immigration on the Labor Market. American Economic Review 86 (2):24651.Google Scholar
Borjas, George J., Richard Freeman, and Lawrence Katz. 1997. How Much Do Immigration and Trade Affect Labor Market Outcomes? Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 1:190.Google Scholar
Brezis, Elize S., and Paul R. Krugman. 1993. Immigration, Investment, and Real Wages. NBER Working Paper 4563. Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Burns, Peter, and James G. Gimpel. 2000. Economic Insecurity, Prejudicial Stereotypes, and Public Opinion on Immigration Policy. Political Science Quarterly 115 (2):20125.Google Scholar
Butcher, Kristin F., and David Card. 1991. Immigration and Wages: Evidence from the 1980s. American Economic Review 81 (2):29296.Google Scholar
Campbell, Angus, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes. 1960. The American Voter. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Card, David. 1990. The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market. Industrial and Labor Relations Review 43 (2):24557.Google Scholar
Card, David. 2005. Is the New Immigration Really So Bad? Economic Journal 115 (507):F30023.Google Scholar
Case, Charles E., Andrew. M. Greeley, and Stephan Fuchs. 1989. Social Determinants of Racial Prejudice. Sociological Perspectives 32 (4):46983.Google Scholar
Chandler, Charles R., and Yung-Mei Tsai. 2001. Social Factors Influencing Immigration Attitudes: An Analysis of Data from the General Social Survey. Social Science Journal 38 (2):17788.Google Scholar
Citrin, Jack, Donald P. Green, Christopher Muste, and Cara Wong. 1997. Public Opinion Toward Immigration Reform: The Role of Economic Motivations. Journal of Politics 59 (3):85881.Google Scholar
DeNew, John P., and Klaus F. Zimmerman. 1994. Native Wage Impacts of Foreign Labor: A Random Effects Panel Analysis. Journal of Population Economics 7 (2):17792.Google Scholar
Dustmann, Christian, Francesca Fabbir, Ian Preston, and Jonathan Wadsworth. 2004. The Local Labour Market Effects of Immigration in the UK. Unpublished manuscript, United Kingdom Home Office.
Dustmann, Christian, and Ian Preston. 2001. Racial and Economic Factors in Attitudes to Immigration. IZA Discussion Paper 190. Bonn, Germany: IZA (Institute for the Study of Labor).
Erikson, Robert S., Norman R. Luttbeg, and Kent L. Tedin. 1991. American Public Opinion: Its Origins, Content, and Impact. 4th ed. New York: Macmillan.
Espenshade, Thomas J., and Charles A. Calhoun. 1993. An Analysis of Public Opinion Toward Undocumented Immigration. Population Research and Policy Review 12 (3):189224.Google Scholar
Espenshade, Thomas J., and Katherine Hempstead. 1996. Contemporary American Attitudes Toward U.S. Immigration. International Migration Review 30 (2):53570.Google Scholar
Estevez-Abe, Margarita, Torben Iversen, and David Soskice. 2001. Social Protection and the Formation of Skills. In Varieties of Capitalism: The Challenges Facing Contemporary Political Economies, edited by Peter Hall and David Soskice, 14583. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Fetzer, Joel S. 2000. Public Attitudes Toward Immigration in the United States, France, and Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Friedberg, Rachel M., and Jennifer Hunt. 1995. The Impact of Immigration on Host Country Wages, Employment, and Growth. Journal of Economic Perspectives 9 (2):2344.Google Scholar
Gang, Ira N., and Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz. 1994a. Labor Market Effects of Immigration in the United States and Europe: Substitution vs. Complementarity. Journal of Population Economics 7 (2):15775.Google Scholar
Gang, Ira N., and Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz. 1994b. Unemployment and Attitudes Toward Foreigners in Germany. In Economic Consequences of Immigration in Germany, edited by Gunter Steinmann and Ralf E. Ulrich, 12154. Heidelberg, Germany: Physica-Verlag.
Gang, Ira N., Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz, and Myeong-Su Yun. 2002. Economic Strain, Ethnic Concentration and Attitudes Towards Foreigners in the European Union. IZA Discussion Paper 578. Bonn, Germany: IZA (Institute for the Study of Labor).
Grossman, Gene, and Elhanan Helpman. 1994. Protection for Sale. American Economic Review 84 (4):83350.Google Scholar
Hartog, Joop, and Aslan Zorlu. 2005. The Effect of Immigration on Wages in Three European Countries. Journal of Population Economics 18 (1):11351.Google Scholar
Harwood, Edwin. 1986. American Public Opinion and U.S. Immigration Policy. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 487 (1):20112.Google Scholar
Hooghe, Liesbet, and Gary Marks. 2003. National Identity and European Integration: A Contextual Analysis of Public Opinion. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Hunt, Jennifer. 1992. The Impact of the 1962 Repatriates from Algeria on the French Labor Market. Industrial and Labor Relations Review 45 (3):55672.Google Scholar
Jones, Ronald. 1971. A Three-Factor Model in Theory, Trade, and History. In Trade, Balance of Payments, and Growth, edited by Jagdish Bhagwati, Ronald Jones, Robert A. Mundell, and Jaroslav Vanek, 321. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: North-Holland.
Kessler, Alan. 2001. Immigration, Economic Insecurity, and the “Ambivalent” American Public. Working Paper 41. University of California, San Diego: Center for Comparative Immigration Studies.
Krugman, Paul, and Maurice Obstfeld. 2000. International Economics: Theory and Policy. 5th ed. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.
LaLonde, Robert J., and Robert H. Topel. 1991. Labor Market Adjustments to Increased Immigration. In Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, edited by John M. Abowd and Richard Freeman, 167200. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Leamer, Edward E., and James A. Levinsohn. 1995. International Trade Theory: The Evidence. In Handbook of International Economics, vol. 3, edited by Gene Grossman and Kenneth Rogoff, 133994. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: North-Holland.
Mayda, Anna Maria. 2006. Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Attitudes Towards Immigrants. Review of Economics and Statistics 88 (3):51030.Google Scholar
McClosky, Herbert, and Alida Brill. 1983. Dimensions of Tolerance: What Americans Believe About Civil Liberties. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
McLaren, Lauren M. 2001. Immigration and the New Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion in the European Union: The Effect of Elites and the EU on Individual-Level Opinions Regarding European and Non-European Immigrants. European Journal of Political Research 39 (1):81108.Google Scholar
O'Rourke, Kevin, and Richard Sinnott. 2002. The Determinants of Individual Trade Policy Preferences: International Survey Evidence. In Brookings Trade Forum, edited by Susan M. Collins and Dani Rodrik, 157206 Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
Razin, Assaf, and Efraim Sadka. 1995. Resisting Migration: Wage Rigidity and Income Distribution. American Economic Review 85 (2):31216.Google Scholar
Scheve, Kenneth F., and Matthew J. Slaughter. 2001a. Labor Market Competition and Individual Preferences over Immigration Policy. Review of Economics and Statistics 83 (1):13345.Google Scholar
Scheve, Kenneth F., and Matthew J. Slaughter. 2001b. Globalization and the Perceptions of American Workers. Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics.
Schneider, William. 1985. Protectionist Push Is Coming from the Top. National Journal, 27 April.
Schuman, Howard, Charlotte Steeh, and Lawrence Bobo. 1985. Racial Attitudes in America: Trends and Interpretations. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Simon, Rita J. 1987. Immigration and American Attitudes. Public Opinion 10 (2):4750.Google Scholar
Sniderman, Paul M., Louk Hagendoorn, and Markus Prior. 2004. Predisposing Factors and Situational Triggers: Exclusionary Reactions to Immigrant Minorities. American Political Science Review 98 (1):3549.Google Scholar
Stoop, Ineke, Roger Jowell, and Peter Mohler. 2002. The European Social Survey: One Survey in Two Dozen Countries. Paper presented at the International Conference on Improving Surveys, August, Copenhagen.
Studlar, D. T. 1977. Social Context and Attitudes Toward Colored Immigrants. British Journal of Sociology 28 (2):16884.Google Scholar
van Tubergen, Frank. 2004. International File of Immigration Surveys. Codebook and machine-readable data set. Utrecht, The Netherlands: Utrecht University Department of Sociology/ICS.
Zimmerman, Klaus F. 1995. Tackling the European Migration Problem. Journal of Economic Perspectives 9 (2):4562.Google Scholar