April 2004

IZA DP No. 1115: Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants

published in: Review of Economics and Statistics, 2006, 88 (3), 510-530

This paper empirically analyzes both economic and non-economic determinants of attitudes toward immigrants, within and across countries. The two individual-level survey data sets used, covering a wide range of developed and developing countries, make it possible to test for interactive effects between individual characteristics and country-level attributes. The paper identifies and investigates a strong empirical regularity concerning the relationship between individual skill and attitudes toward immigrants. I find that individuals with higher levels of skill are more likely to be pro-immigration in high per capita GDP countries and less likely in low per capita GDP countries. Additional results, based on a smaller sample of countries, suggest a labor-market explanation for this cross-country pattern. The variation across countries in the correlation between skill and preferences appears to be related to differences in the skill composition of natives relative to immigrants across destination economies. This finding is consistent with the predictions of the Heckscher-Ohlin model, in the absence of factor-price-insensitivity, and of the factor-proportions-analysis model. Finally, non-economic variables also appear to be correlated with immigration attitudes but they do not seem to alter significantly the results on the economic explanations.