The Effects of Self-Interest and Prejudice on Immigration Attitudes

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Courtemanche, Marie
The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY.
This research investigates the role of self-interest and prejudice in determining immigration attitudes. In regards to self-interest, it is argued that policy preferences are driven both by individual circumstances as well as geographic contexts. Because recent immigrants to the United States have fewer occupational skills they pose greater job related threats to select groups of individuals. The population standing to lose the most from incoming low-skill immigrants is the working class. Consequently, this group should be the most vociferous in their support for immigration restrictions. Furthermore, it makes little sense to say that all working class individuals bear the same burden. A working class individual in a small town in Iowa is unlikely to experience the same threat as an individual in Queens, N.Y. Consequently, contextual geographic information will be examined in order to fully understand the role of job market competition. A strong competing counter argument, however, suggests that prejudice informs immigration preferences. Consequently, I investigate how group antipathy influences immigration attitudes. More specifically, I propose that prejudice is conditioned by realistic threat. Given that populations negatively affected on the labor market by immigrants should be most threatened by immigration, prejudicial attitudes should also be influenced by realistic elements. My hypotheses are tested using data from the Census Bureau as well as the American National Election Study. In general, my research investigates the intersection between labor market competition, prejudice and geographic context in forming immigration policy preferences. The findings of my work have great potential to shape political discourse as well as elite decision making.