Labor-Market Competition and Individual Preferences Over Immigration Policy

32 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 1999 Last revised: 12 Oct 2010

See all articles by Kenneth Scheve

Kenneth Scheve

Stanford University

Matthew J. Slaughter

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 1999


This paper uses an individual-level data set to analyze the determinants of individual preferences over immigration policy in the United States. In particular, we test for a link from individual skill levels to stated immigration-policy preferences. Different economic models make contrasting predictions about the nature of this link. We have two main empirical results. First, less-skilled workers are significantly more likely to prefer limiting immigrant inflows into the United States. The result is robust to several different econometric specifications which account for determinants of policy preferences other than skills. Our finding suggests that over time horizons relevant to individuals when evaluating immigration policy, individuals thank that the U.S. economy absorbs immigrant inflows at least partly by changing wages. These preferences are consistent with a multi-cone' Heckscher Ohlin trade model and with a factor-proportions-analysis labor model. Second that less-skilled workers in high-immigration communities are especially anti-immigrationist. If anything, our evidence suggests attenuation of the skills-preferences correlation in high-immigration communities. These preferences are inconsistent with an area-analysis labor model.

Suggested Citation

Scheve, Kenneth F. and Slaughter, Matthew J., Labor-Market Competition and Individual Preferences Over Immigration Policy (February 1999). NBER Working Paper No. w6946. Available at SSRN:

Kenneth F. Scheve

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Matthew J. Slaughter (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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