Educated Preferences: Explaining Attitudes Toward Immigration in Europe

International Organization, Vol. 61, pp. 399-442, Spring 2007

Posted: 4 Apr 2011

See all articles by Jens Hainmueller

Jens Hainmueller

Stanford University - Department of Political Science; Stanford Graduate School of Business; Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

Michael J. Hiscox

Harvard University

Date Written: January 1, 2007

Abstract

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.

Keywords: International Migration, Political Economy, Immigration Preferences

JEL Classification: F22, F1

Suggested Citation

Hainmueller, Jens and Hiscox, Michael J., Educated Preferences: Explaining Attitudes Toward Immigration in Europe (January 1, 2007). International Organization, Vol. 61, pp. 399-442, Spring 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1801903

Jens Hainmueller (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/~jhain/

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

30 Alta Road
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Michael J. Hiscox

Harvard University ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~hiscox/

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