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Beliefs about the Economic Impact of Immigration


  • Tremewan, James


The public's beliefs about the economic impact of immigration on host nations' economies is significantly more negative than both the beliefs of economists, and what much of the empirical evidence would suggest. In an attempt to explain this disparity, and the wide range of beliefs about what should largely be a matter of fact, I develop a simple model of belief formation based on the concept of motivated reasoning: when coming to a conclusion people are influenced by the desire to come to a particular conclusion (a directional goal) and by the desire for their conclusion to be justified by evidence (an accuracy goal). This gives agents an incentive to manipulate their beliefs. The model yields several testable hypotheses: positive beliefs about the economic impact of immigrants should be negatively associated with a preference for living in an ethnically homogeneous society; the effect of education depends crucially on the aforementioned preference; finally, beliefs should reflect the probability of receiving supporting evidence. An empirical analysis using the European Social Survey 2002/2003 data finds support for all three hypotheses.

Suggested Citation

  • Tremewan, James, 2009. "Beliefs about the Economic Impact of Immigration," TSE Working Papers 09-019, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:22141

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jennifer Hunt & Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle, 2010. "How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 31-56, April.
    2. Barro, R.J. & Sala-i-Martin, X., 1991. "Regional Growth and Migration: a Japan - U.S. Comparaison," Papers 650, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
    3. David Blanchflower & Jumana Saleheen & Chris Shadforth, 2007. "The impact of the recent migration from Eastern Europe on the UK economy," Discussion Papers 17, Monetary Policy Committee Unit, Bank of England.
    4. Barro, Robert T. & Sala-I-Martin, Xavier, 1992. "Regional growth and migration: A Japan-United States comparison," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 312-346, December.
    5. Rachel M. Friedberg & Jennifer Hunt, 1995. "The Impact of Immigrants on Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 23-44, Spring.
    6. Edward C. Norton & Hua Wang & Chunrong Ai, 2004. "Computing interaction effects and standard errors in logit and probit models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 4(2), pages 154-167, June.
    7. Malchow-Møller, Nikolaj & Roland Munch, Jakob & Schroll, Sanne & Rose Skaksen, Jan, 2006. "Attitudes Towards Immigration: Does Economic Self-Interest Matter?," Working Papers 11-2006, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics.
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    More about this item


    motivated reasoning; behavioural economics;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers


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