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Educated Preferences: Explaining Attitudes Toward Immigration in Europe

  • Jens Hainmueller

    (Harvard University)

  • Michael J. Hiscox

    (Harvard University)

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 upon 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 (i.e., 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 effect of education on attitudes toward immigrants can be accounted for by differences among individuals in cultural values and beliefs. More educated respondents are significantly less racist and place greater value on cultural diversity; they are also more likely to believe that immigration generates benefits for the host economy as a whole. Together, these factors account for around 65% of the estimated effect of education on support for immigration.

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Length: 52 pages
Date of creation: 19 May 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpot:0505013
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 52
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