The Influence of a Migration Background on Attitudes Towards Immigration

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

The Influence of a Migration Background on Attitudes Towards Immigration

  • Charlotte Clara Becker Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology, University of Cologne, Germany / Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences, University of Cologne, Germany

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Abstract:  Migration is an ever-increasing phenomenon that is unfailingly the topic of public discourse. Recently, empirical interest has expanded to include the study of attitudes towards immigration. However, the focus usually lies on the opinion of natives, that is, persons without a migration background. This is unfortunate, because in many countries the proportion of people with a migration background is quite high, and many of them hold the citizenship of the receiving country. I expect individuals with a migration background to have more favourable attitudes towards immigration than the general population because they can identify more strongly with other immigrants due to their own migration history. Furthermore, I expect this difference to decrease with each subsequent migrant generation, with earlier generations holding more positive attitudes than later generations. For the analyses, I pooled data from the 2008–2016 rounds of the American General Social Survey. The subsample used included 7,362 respondents, 2,811 of whom had a migration background. Moreover, the data set allowed the differentiation of three generations of migrants. The results support the theoretical expectations. Persons with a migration background had more favourable attitudes towards immigration compared to those without a migration background. However, a closer look revealed that this is the case only for first-generation immigrants. The attitudes of second- and third-generation immigrants differed from each other on the 5% level, but the attitudes of neither group differed from that of the general population when the migrants’ regional origins were controlled for.

Keywords:  attitudes towards immigration; immigration; migrant generation; American General Social Survey

Published:   27 December 2019


© Charlotte Clara Becker. 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.