The Upside of Accents: Language, Inter-group Difference, and Attitudes toward Immigration
52 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2011 Last revised: 11 Dec 2013
Date Written: April 30, 2013
In recent decades, many developed democracies have experienced high immigration, and public attitudes are likely to shape their responses. Yet prior studies of ethnocentrism and stereotyping make divergent predictions about how differentiated anti-immigration attitudes are. Some approaches contend that culturally distinctive immigrants will consistently generate increased opposition, while others predict that natives' reactions will depend on the cultural distinction in question and associated stereotypes. This paper tests these hypotheses using realistic, video-based experiments with representative American samples. The results refute the expectation that more culturally distinctive immigrants necessarily induce anti-immigration views: exposure to Latino immigrants with darker skin tones or who speak Spanish does not increase restrictionist attitudes. Instead, the impact of out-group cues hinges on their content and related norms, as immigrants who speak accented English seem to counteract negative stereotypes related to immigrant assimilation.
Keywords: attitudes towards immigration, language, Spanish, accents, skin tone, survey experiments
JEL Classification: J71, J15, J61
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation