Location Matters: Is the Immigration Debate over Stocks or Flows?
39 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2019 Last revised: 24 Sep 2019
Date Written: June 19, 2019
Vast research on immigration lumps together native citizens' attitudes toward two different groups: the immigrant stock, i.e., non-naturalized resident aliens, and the immigrant flow, i.e., future waves of foreigners that seek to enter and live in the country. This paper studies how and why natives' attitudes differ with respect to the two groups. We analyze theoretically the reasons the stock and flow of immigration might induce different views among natives, and then present evidence from several experiments which show that Americans are systematically more acceptant of the former. Our analysis indicates that this "stock premium" partly stems from a sense of moral obligation toward people residing in the country. In contrast, contact with immigrants and variation in the perceived characteristics of the immigrant groups play little role in explaining the stock premium. Replicating two widely-cited experiments, we show that the stock-flow distinction has important implications for the interpretation of earlier findings on immigration attitudes.
Keywords: public attitudes toward immigration, immigration flows, immigration stock
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