Gerber, A. S., Huber, G. A., Biggers, D. R., & Hendry, D. J. (2017). Self-Interest, Beliefs, and Policy Opinions: Understanding How Economic Beliefs Affect Immigration Policy Preferences. Political Research Quarterly, 70(1): 155–171. DOI: 10.1177/1065912916684032.
Research on how economic factors affect attitudes toward immigration often focuses on labor market effects, concluding that, because workers’ skill levels do not predict opposition to low- versus highly skilled immigration, economic self-interest does not shape policy attitudes. We conduct a new survey to measure beliefs about a range of economic, political, and cultural consequences of immigration. When economic self-interest is broadened to include concerns about the fiscal burdens created by immigration, beliefs about these economic effects strongly correlate with immigration attitudes and explain a significant share of the difference in support for highly versus low-skilled immigration. Although cultural factors are important, our results suggest that previous work underestimates the importance of economic self-interest as a source of immigration policy preferences and attitudes more generally.
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