Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

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Explaining Attitudes Towards Immigration: The Role of Economic Factors

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Abstract:  In this article, we investigate the determinants of individuals’ opinions concerning the economic impact of immigrants. Unlike most previous studies, we use a large sample of 61 countries (Joint WVS/EVS 2017–2020 dataset) that are either net receivers or net emitters of migrants. Using a multilevel model, we test the effect of individuals’ characteristics and of several macroeconomic variables on the assessment of immigrants’ impact on development. We highlight that natives’ evaluation of the economic consequences of immigration is more influenced by age, trust, education, and income than by contextual variables such as growth, inflation, inequalities, income level, or number of immigrants in the country. Our results match with the hypothesis that immigrants are considered substitutes for low- and medium-skilled workers in capital-abundant countries. However, neither labour-market nor welfare-state considerations can be considered as the main drivers of the appraisals made about the economic impact of immigration. Our results tend to confirm the prediction that greater contact with immigrants reduces anti-immigrant opinions, in particular for skilled people. In contrast, immigrant inflows lead low- and medium-skilled people to make worse judgments concerning the economic consequences of immigration. All in all, our results validate the view that education comprises a major part of the cognitive assessment of the role played by immigrants in the economy, at least in high-income countries.

Keywords:  attitudes towards immigration; economic impacts; immigrants; labour-market


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© Teresa María García-Muñoz, Juliette Milgram-Baleix. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.