Experimental Evidence for a Link between Labor Market Competition and Anti-Immigrant Attitudes
45 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2017 Last revised: 4 Jul 2019
Date Written: March 22, 2019
Anti-immigrant sentiment has become central to politics in Western Democracies yet researchers disagree about its causes. Experimental studies claim to disprove the labor market competition (LMC) hypothesis of anti-immigrant attitudes because high-skilled workers should prefer low-skilled immigrants who do not compete with them, but actually prefer high-skilled immigrants. However, these studies do not account for high-skilled natives' skill specificity which protects them from immigrant competition unlike low-skilled natives. I present a survey experiment with an equal LMC treatment for all skill levels: respondents' actual occupations. The results support the LMC hypothesis: high-skilled natives are 0.27 less favorable towards immigrants in their occupation than other high-skilled immigrants (on a 1-7 scale), comparable to their preference against low-skilled immigrants (0.3 lower). I find low-skilled natives perceive all low-skilled immigration as threatening whereas high-skilled natives only feel threatened by immigration in their occupation, showing LMC contributes to anti-immigrant sentiment.
Keywords: immigration, labor market, economic threat, survey experiments, british election study
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