Bordering On

Kevin Lewis

September 14, 2023

Changes in Perceptions of Border Security Influence Desired Levels of Immigration
Ryan Briggs & Omer Solodoch
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming 


Security concerns about immigration are on the rise. Many countries respond by fortifying their borders. Yet little is known about the influence of border security measures on perceived threat from immigration. Borders might facilitate group identities and spread fear of outsiders. In contrast, they might enhance citizens' sense of security and control over immigration. We test these claims using survey experiments run on a quota sample of over 1000 Americans. The findings show that allocating more government resources to border security increases desired levels of immigration. This effect is likely driven by a sense of control over immigration, induced by border security measures even when the number or characteristics of immigrants remain unchanged. Our findings suggest that border controls, which are widely considered as symbols of closure and isolation, can increase public support for immigration.

Do immigrants ever oppose immigration?
Aflatun Kaeser & Massimiliano Tani
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming 


This paper analyzes immigrants' views about immigration, contributing to the behavioral literature on the subject. In particular, it explores the role of statistical discrimination as a cause of possible opposition to immigration in the absence of stringent immigration policies and the large amount of undocumented immigration. We test this hypothesis using US data from the seventh wave of the World Value Survey, finding that successful immigrants in the United States (i.e., those who are in the top quintile of the socioeconomic classification), who may benefit the most from being perceived as unrelated to unskilled undocumented immigrants, have negative views about immigration, especially with respect to its contribution to unemployment, crime, and the risk of a terrorist attack. This effect does not arise in the case of countries that apply stricter controls than the United States on immigration, like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, or do not attract as large a number of undocumented immigrants. We interpret these results as evidence that immigrants' attitudes toward other immigrants respond to the lack of a selective immigration policy: namely, if successful immigrants run the risk of being perceived as related to undocumented or uncontrolled immigration, they respond by embracing an immigrants' anti-immigration view.

Personal Economic Shocks and Public Opposition to Unauthorized Immigration
Daniel Hopkins, Yotam Margalit & Omer Solodoch
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming 


Do negative economic shocks heighten public opposition to immigration, and through what mechanisms? Extant research suggests that economic circumstances and levels of labour market competition have little bearing on citizens' immigration attitudes. Yet personal economic shocks have the potential to trigger the threatened, anti-immigration responses --  possibly through channels other than labour market competition -- that prior cross-sectional research has been unable to detect. To examine these propositions, we used a unique panel study which tracked a large, population-based sample of Americans between 2007 and 2020. We found that adverse economic shocks, especially job losses, spurred opposition to unauthorized immigration. However, such effects are not concentrated among those most likely to face labour market competition from unauthorized immigrants. Instead, they are concentrated among white male Americans. This evidence suggests that the respondents' anti-immigration turn does not stem from economic concerns alone. Instead, personal experiences with the economy are refracted through salient socio-political lenses.

The Labor Market Effects of Immigration Enforcement
Chloe East et al.
Journal of Labor Economics, forthcoming 


We examine the labor market effects of Secure Communities (SC), a police-based immigration enforcement policy implemented in 2008-13. Using variation in implementation across local areas and over time, we find that SC decreased the employment of likely undocumented immigrants. These effects are driven not only by deportations but also by adjustments among immigrants who remain in the United States. Importantly, SC also decreased the employment and hourly wages of US-born individuals. We provide support for two mechanisms that could explain this decline in labor demand: an increase in labor costs that decreases job creation and a reduction in local consumption.

The IT Boom and Other Unintended Consequences of Chasing the American Dream
Gaurav Khanna & Nicolas Morales
University of California Working Paper, August 2023 


We study how US immigration policy and the Internet boom affected not just the US, but also led to a tech boom in India. Students and workers in India acquired computer science skills to join the rapidly growing US IT industry. As the number of US visas was capped, many remained in India, enabling the growth of an Indian IT sector that eventually surpassed the US in IT exports. We leverage variation in immigration quotas and US demand across occupations to show that India experienced a 'brain gain' when the probability of migrating to the US was higher. Changes in the US H-1B cap induced changes in fields of study, and occupation choice in India. We then build and estimate a quantitative model incorporating trade, innovation, and dynamic occupation choice in both countries. We find that high-skill migration raised the average welfare of workers in each country, but had distributional consequences. The H-1B program induced Indians to switch to computer science occupations, and helped drive the shift in IT production from the US to India. We show that accounting for endogenous skill acquisition is key for quantifying the gains from migration.

Innovation Spillovers from High-skilled Labor Shock
Emily Kim
University of Kansas Working Paper, August 2023 


I present empirical evidence of innovation and technology spillovers among firms that are geographically proximate. By examining the impact of a high-skilled labor shock proxied by the winning rate of H-1B visa applications for each firm in a specific year, I first show that firms experiencing an exogenous labor shock have a positive influence on both the quality and quantity of their innovative activities. Secondly, I present that a diversified labor composition not only enhances innovation but also diversifies the knowledge base and expands the range of expertise available within firms. Lastly, I provide evidence of innovation spillovers, whereby the increased innovative activities and expanded technology sets of firms spill over into neighboring firms. The degree of these spillovers varies based on factors such as financing constraints, information asymmetry, and managerial motivation. I show that these innovation spillovers are facilitated through a mechanism of 'social interaction' where foreign high-skilled workers act as a conduit for idea-sharing and interaction, leading to a greater level of spillover effects.

Latent Cumulative Disadvantage: US Immigrants' Reversed Economic Assimilation in Later Life
Leafia Ye
Social Forces, forthcoming 


One of the most salient findings in research on immigration has been that immigrants experience substantial economic mobility as they accumulate more years in the host-society labor force and eventually approach earnings parity with their native-born counterparts. However, we do not know whether this progress is sustained in retirement. In this paper, I develop a framework of Latent Cumulative (Dis)advantage and hypothesize that even as immigrants are approaching parity with the native-born in terms of current earnings, they accumulate disadvantages in lifetime earnings, job benefits, and retirement planning that eventually lead them to have growing disadvantages in income in later life. Drawing on decades of longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study, I find that while foreign- and native-born men in the United States both experience a decline in income after age 50, the decline is much more substantial among foreign-born men. As a result, immigrant men's economic assimilation is reversed in later life. I find evidence that this phenomenon is driven mainly by immigrants' lower lifetime earnings and cumulative exposure to worse job benefits. Given that the foreign-born elderly population in the United States is projected to quadruple by 2050, findings from this paper have important implications for long-term policy planning.

From Low-Cost Flights to the Ballot Box: How Eastern European Migration Shaped Far-Right Voting in London
Elena Pupaza & Joachim Wehner
Journal of Politics, forthcoming 


We examine patterns of migration and far-right voting in London following the eastern enlargement of the European Union in 2004 and 2007. To address immigrant sorting, we draw on transport and geography scholarship about migration to develop an instrumental variable approach. Our data set combines ward-level election and census information with georeferenced data on preexisting bus stops providing access to low-cost flight connections with the new European Union states. We estimate a large positive effect of Eastern European migration on changes in support for anti-immigrant parties between the 2004 and 2012 London Assembly elections. Our analysis suggests that concerns about affordable housing were a channel through which this migration affected support for the populist right but not the main fascist party. Our study highlights the utility of distinguishing different migrants and far-right parties, contributes evidence from Britain on how migration affects local elections, and offers a methodological alternative to the shift-share instrument.


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