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Immigration, Wages, And Compositional Amenities


  • David Card
  • Christian Dustmann
  • Ian Preston


There is strong public opposition to increased immigration throughout Europe. Given the modest economic impacts of immigration estimated in most studies, the depth of antiimmigrant sentiment is puzzling. Immigration, however, does not just affect wages and taxes. It also changes the composition of the local population, threatening the "compositional amenities" that natives derive from their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. In this paper we use a simple latent factor model, combined with data for 21 countries from the 2002 European Social Survey (ESS), to measure the relative importance of economic and compositional concerns in driving opinions about immigration policy. The ESS included a unique battery of questions on the labor market and social impacts of immigration, as well as on the desirability of increasing or reducing immigrant inflows. We find that compositional concerns are 2-5 times more important in explaining variation in individual attitudes toward immigration policy than concerns over wages and taxes. Likewise, most of the difference in opinion between more- and lesseducated respondents is attributable to heightened compositional concerns among people with lower education.
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Suggested Citation

  • David Card & Christian Dustmann & Ian Preston, 2012. "Immigration, Wages, And Compositional Amenities," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 78-119, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:10:y:2012:i:1:p:78-119 DOI: j.1542-4774.2011.01051.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anna Maria Mayda, 2006. "Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 510-530, August.
    2. Mayda, Anna Maria, 2008. "Why are people more pro-trade than pro-migration?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 160-163, December.
    3. Patrick Bayer & Fernando Ferreira & Robert McMillan, 2007. "A Unified Framework for Measuring Preferences for Schools and Neighborhoods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(4), pages 588-638, August.
    4. Dustmann Christian & Preston Ian P, 2007. "Racial and Economic Factors in Attitudes to Immigration," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-41, November.
    5. Tommaso Frattini, 2012. "Immigrazione," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 3, pages 363-407, July-Sept.
    6. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Peri, Giovanni, 2008. "Immigration and National Wages: Clarifying the Theory and the Empirics," CEPR Discussion Papers 6916, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Kevin H. O'Rourke & R. Sinnott, 2003. "Migration Flows: Political Economy of Migration and the Empirical Challenges," Trinity Economics Papers 20036, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
    8. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
    9. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Culture and Language," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 95-126, December.
    10. Francisco Rivera-Batiz & Myeong-Su Yun & Ira Gang, 2002. "Economic Strain, Ethnic Concentration and Attitudes Towards Foreigners in the European Union," Departmental Working Papers 200214, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
    11. Kristin F. Butcher & Anne Morrison Piehl, 2005. "Why are immigrants' incarceration rates so low? evidence on selective immigration, deterrence, and deportation," Working Paper Series WP-05-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    12. Butcher, Kristin F & Card, David, 1991. "Immigration and Wages: Evidence from the 1980's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 292-296, May.
    13. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-445, March.
    14. Kristin Butcher & David Card, 1991. "Immigration and Wages: Evidence From the 1980's," Working Papers 661, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    15. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1335-1374.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being


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