On Normative Effects of Immigration Law
42 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2016 Last revised: 1 Mar 2017
Date Written: February 28, 2017
Can laws shape and mold our attitudes, values, and social norms, and if so, how do immigration laws affect our attitudes or views toward minority groups? I explore these questions through a randomized laboratory experiment that examines whether and to what extent short-term exposures to anti-immigration and pro-immigration laws affect people’s implicit and explicit attitudes toward Latinos. My analysis shows that exposure to an anti-immigration law is associated with increased perceptions among study participants that Latinos are unintelligent and law-breaking. In contrast, I find no evidence that exposure to pro-immigration laws promoted positive attitudes toward Latinos. Taken together, these results suggest that exposure to anti-immigration laws can easily trigger negative racial attitudes, but fostering positive racial attitudes through pro-immigration laws might be substantially more difficult. I argue that a fuller appreciation of the impacts of immigration laws requires an understanding of their normative effects. I conclude by discussing the directions for future research on law, racial attitudes, and intergroup relations, and the policy implications of my findings.
Keywords: immigration law, racial attitudes, implicit bias, explicit bias, expressive theory of law
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