Kevin Lewis

October 13, 2017

Economic Reasoning with a Racial Hue: Is the Immigration Consensus Purely Race Neutral?
Benjamin Newman & Neil Malhotra
Stanford Working Paper, August 2017


Leading research is converging upon the finding that citizens from immigrant-receiving nations strongly prefer the entry of high-skilled to low-skilled immigrants. Prior studies have largely interpreted this “skill premium” as deriving from sociotropic economic considerations. We argue that a purely economic conceptualization offers an incomplete understanding of the processes generating the skill premium, as it overlooks the role of prejudice as a factor undergirding citizens’ preferences. We contend that the skill premium is a manifestation of prejudice insomuch as it constitutes a preference for those atypical of the existing immigrant population. Through re-analysis of data from published work, as well as via original survey experiments, we demonstrate that a purely economic interpretation of the skill premium fails a range of critical tests. Our findings suggest that rather than solely representing a race-neutral preference for skilled immigrants, the skill premium partly represents a preference against disliked prevalent immigrants.

The Employment Effects of Mexican Repatriations: Evidence from the 1930's
Jongkwan Lee, Giovanni Peri & Vasil Yasenov
NBER Working Paper, September 2017


During the period 1929-34 a campaign forcing the repatriation of Mexicans and Mexican Americans was carried out in the U.S. by states and local authorities. The claim of politicians at the time was that repatriations would reduce local unemployment and give jobs to Americans, alleviating the local effects of the Great Depression. This paper uses this episode to examine the consequences of Mexican repatriations on labor market outcomes of natives. Analyzing 893 cities using full count decennial Census data in the period 1930-40, we find that repatriation of Mexicans was associated with small decreases in native employment and increases in native unemployment. These results are robust to the inclusion of many controls. We then apply an instrumental variable strategy based on the differential size of Mexican communities in 1930, as well as a matching method, to estimate a causal "average treatment effect." Confirming the OLS regressions, the causal estimates do not support the claim that repatriations had any expansionary effects on native employment, but suggest instead that they had no effect on, or possibly depressed, their employment and wages.

The Rise and Fall of U.S. Low-Skilled Immigration
Gordon Hanson, Chen Liu & Craig McIntosh
NBER Working Paper, August 2017


From the 1970s to the early 2000s, the United States experienced an epochal wave of low-skilled immigration. Since the Great Recession, however, U.S. borders have become a far less active place when it comes to the net arrival of foreign workers. The number of undocumented immigrants has declined in absolute terms, while the overall population of low-skilled, foreign-born workers has remained stable. We examine how the scale and composition of low-skilled immigration in the United States have evolved over time, and how relative income growth and demographic shifts in the Western Hemisphere have contributed to the recent immigration slowdown. Because major source countries for U.S. immigration are now seeing and will continue to see weak growth of the labor supply relative to the United States, future immigration rates of young, low-skilled workers appear unlikely to rebound, whether or not U.S. immigration policies tighten further.

Do Anti-Immigrant Laws Shape Public Sentiment? A Study of Arizona’s SB 1070 Using Twitter Data
René Flores
American Journal of Sociology, September 2017, Pages 333-384


Scholars have debated whether laws can influence public opinion, but evidence of these “feedback” effects is scant. This article examines the effect of Arizona’s 2010 high-profile anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, on both public attitudes and behaviors toward immigrants. Using sentiment analysis and a difference-in-difference approach to analyze more than 250,000 tweets, the author finds that SB 1070 had a negative impact on the average sentiment of tweets regarding immigrants, Mexicans, and Hispanics, but not on those about Asians or blacks. However, these changes in public discourse were not caused by shifting attitudes toward immigrants but by the mobilization of anti-immigrant users and by motivating new users to begin tweeting. While some scholars propose that punitive laws can shape people’s attitudes toward targeted groups, this study shows that policies are more likely to influence behaviors. Rather than placating the electorate, anti-immigrant laws may stir the pot further, mobilizing individuals already critical of immigrants.

Explaining immigration preferences: Disentangling skill and prevalence
Neil Malhotra & Benjamin Newman
Research & Politics, October 2017


One of the most important and consistent findings to emerge from the study of immigration politics over the past decade is the seemingly uniform preference among mass citizenries for high-skilled immigrants. One potential conceptual flaw in this mounting body of literature is that skill is confounded with prevalence: people may prefer high-skilled immigrants not because they are skilled but because there are not very many of them. To address this possibility, we conducted an original experiment within a nationally representative survey of over 12,000 respondents. We conducted three main empirical tests and found that the skill premium is not confounded by prevalence. However, low-skilled Mexican immigrants specifically are disadvantaged when people are told that they are prevalent, a finding that comports with extant research on the construction of Latino immigration as a unique threat to American society.

The Effect of the H-1B Quota on Employment and Selection of Foreign-Born Labor
Anna Maria Mayda et al.
NBER Working Paper, October 2017


The H-1B program allows skilled foreign-born individuals to work in the United States. The annual quota on new H-1B visa issuances fell from 195,000 to 65,000 for employees of most firms in fiscal year 2004. However, this cap did not apply to new employees of colleges, universities, and non-profit research institutions. Additionally, existing H-1B holders seeking to renew their visa were also exempt from the quota. Using a triple difference approach, this paper demonstrates that cap restrictions significantly reduced the employment of new H-1B workers in for-profit firms relative to what would have occurred in an unconstrained environment. Employment of similar native workers in for profit firms did not change, however, consistent with a low degree of substitutability between H1B and native workers. The restriction also redistributed H-1Bs toward computer-related occupations, Indian-born workers, and firms using the H-1B program intensively.

Immigration, occupations, and native wages: Long time trends in the US
Debora Pricila Birgier
Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, October 2017, Pages 41-55


The effect of immigration on the absorbing country is a major issue fueling public and academic debates. A foremost question is immigrants’ impact on the native population’s earnings. Using American data from 1970 to 2010, I examined the effects of immigrant proportion in a given occupation on natives’ earnings. I estimated two different types of multilevel models: a cross-sectional and a lagged dependent model of the effect of changes in immigrants’ occupational share on natives’ wage growth. The findings suggest that occupations abundantly populated by immigrants are low-wage occupations. However, in most years the increase in immigrants’ occupational share was not related to a decline in natives’ wages. These combined results cast doubt on immigration affecting native wages, and suggest that the negative view of immigration might be overstated.

Immigration, Wages, and Education: A Labor Market Equilibrium Structural Model
Joan Llull
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming


Recent literature analyzing wage effects of immigration assumes labor supply is fixed across education-experience cells. This paper departs from this assumption estimating a labor market equilibrium dynamic discrete choice model on U.S. micro-data for 1967–2007. Individuals adjust to immigration by changing education, participation, and/or occupation. Adjustments are heterogeneous: 4.2–26.2% of prime-aged native males change their careers; of them, some switch to white collar careers and increase education by about three years; others reduce labor market attachment and reduce education also by about three years. These adjustments mitigate initial effects on wages and inequality. Natives that are more similar to immigrants are the most affected on impact, but also have a larger margin to adjust and differentiate. Adjustments also produce a self-selection bias in the estimation of wage effects at the lower tail of the distribution, which the model corrects.

Ideological Responses to the EU Refugee Crisis: The Left, the Right, and the Extremes
Jan-Willem van Prooijen, André Krouwel & Julia Emmer
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


The 2016 European Union (EU) refugee crisis exposed a fundamental distinction in political attitudes between the political left and right. Previous findings suggest, however, that besides political orientation, ideological strength (i.e., political extremism) is also relevant to understand such distinctive attitudes. Our study reveals that the political right is more anxious, and the political left experiences more self-efficacy, about the refugee crisis. At the same time, the political extremes — at both sides of the spectrum — are more likely than moderates to believe that the solution to this societal problem is simple. Furthermore, both extremes experience more judgmental certainty about their domain-specific knowledge of the refugee crisis, independent of their actual knowledge. Finally, belief in simple solutions mediated the relationship between ideology and judgmental certainty, but only among political extremists. We conclude that both ideological orientation and strength matter to understand citizens’ reactions to the refugee crisis.

Unwelcome Guests? The Effects of Refugees on the Educational Outcomes of Incumbent Students
David Figlio & Umut Özek
NBER Working Paper, August 2017


The world is experiencing the second largest refugee crisis in a century, and one of the major points of contention involves the possible adverse effects of incoming refugees on host communities. We examine the effects of a large refugee influx into Florida public schools following the Haitian earthquake of 2010 using unique matched birth and schooling records. We find precise zero estimated effects of refugees on the educational outcomes of incumbent students in the year of the earthquake or in the two years that follow, regardless of the socioeconomic status, grade level, ethnicity, or birthplace of incumbent students.

“Misfits,” “stars,” and immigrant entrepreneurship
Shulamit Kahn, Giulia La Mattina & Megan MacGarvie
Small Business Economics, October 2017, Pages 533–557


Prior research has shown that immigrants are more likely than natives to become entrepreneurs, and that entrepreneurs are disproportionately drawn from the extremes of the ability distribution. Using a large panel of US residents with bachelors’ degrees in scientific fields, we ask whether higher rates of entrepreneurship among immigrants can be explained by their position on the ability spectrum and establish four new facts about science-based and immigrant entrepreneurship. First, in this sample, an immigrant entrepreneurship premium exists only in science-based entrepreneurship. Second, this premium persists after controlling for ability (measured by paid employment wage residuals.) Third, a U-shaped relationship between ability and entrepreneurship exists only in non-science entrepreneurship; for science entrepreneurship, the relationship is increasing. Finally, the immigrant premium in science entrepreneurship is largest among immigrants with non-US degrees and those from non-English-speaking or culturally dissimilar countries. Stated preferences for self-employment do not explain the immigrant premium. The results suggest that immigrants may on average have higher levels of unobservable skills related to entrepreneurship.

When Your Kind Cannot Live Here: How Generic Language and Criminal Sanctions Shape Social Categorization
Deborah Goldfarb et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Using generic language to describe groups (applying characteristics to entire categories) is ubiquitous and affects how children and adults categorize other people. Five-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and adults (N = 190) learned about a novel social group that separated into two factions (citizens and noncitizens). Noncitizens were described in either generic or specific language. Later, the children and adults categorized individuals in two contexts: criminal (individuals labeled as noncitizens faced jail and deportation) and noncriminal (labeling had no consequences). Language genericity influenced decision making. Participants in the specific-language condition, but not those in the generic-language condition, reduced the rate at which they identified potential noncitizens when their judgments resulted in criminal penalties compared with when their judgments had no consequences. In addition, learning about noncitizens in specific language (vs. generic language) increased the amount of matching evidence participants needed to identify potential noncitizens (preponderance standard) and decreased participants’ certainty in their judgments. Thus, generic language encourages children and adults to categorize individuals using a lower evidentiary standard regardless of negative consequences for presumed social-group membership.

Explaining opposition to refugee resettlement: The role of NIMBYism and perceived threats
Jeremy Ferwerda, D.J. Flynn & Yusaku Horiuchi
Science Advances, September 2017


One week after President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order to reduce the influx of refugees to the United States, we conducted a survey experiment to understand American citizens’ attitudes toward refugee resettlement. Specifically, we evaluated whether citizens consider the geographic context of the resettlement program (that is, local versus national) and the degree to which they are swayed by media frames that increasingly associate refugees with terrorist threats. Our findings highlight a collective action problem: Participants are consistently less supportive of resettlement within their own communities than resettlement elsewhere in the country. This pattern holds across all measured demographic, political, and geographic subsamples within our data. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that threatening media frames significantly reduce support for both national and local resettlement. Conversely, media frames rebutting the threat posed by refugees have no significant effect. Finally, the results indicate that participants in refugee-dense counties are less responsive to threatening frames, suggesting that proximity to previously settled refugees may reduce the impact of perceived security threats.

Intergroup Anxiety and Willingness to Accommodate: Exploring the Effects of Accent Stereotyping and Social Attraction
Gretchen Montgomery & Yan Bing Zhang
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Guided by communication accommodation theory, the current study examined the effects of accent stereotyping on native English speakers’ (N = 243) perceptions of and willingness to communicate with the nonnative speaker and willingness to accommodate to Hispanic/Latino Americans in general. Accent stereotyping was manipulated through two experimental conditions: presence or absence of an explicit and negative stereotype in a written paragraph. After reading the paragraph, participants listened to a recording of an English speaker with a moderate, native-Spanish accent. Using PROCESS, results revealed participants in the stereotype condition rated the speaker as less socially attractive than the control condition, indicating accent stereotyping negatively affected perceptions of social attractiveness of the moderately accented speaker. Additionally, results indicated significant indirect effects of negative accent stereotyping on willingness to communicate with the speaker and willingness to accommodate to Hispanic/Latino out-group members sequentially through perceived social attractiveness and communication anxiety.

Taken by Storm: Hurricanes, Migrant Networks, and U.S. Immigration
Parag Mahajan & Dean Yang
NBER Working Paper, August 2017


How readily do potential migrants respond to increased returns to migration? Even if origin areas become less attractive vis-à-vis migration destinations, fixed costs can prevent increased migration. We examine migration responses to hurricanes, which reduce the attractiveness of origin locations. Restricted-access U.S. Census data allows precise migration measures and analysis of more migrant-origin countries. Hurricanes increase U.S. immigration, with the effect increasing in the size of prior migrant stocks. Large migrant networks reduce fixed costs by facilitating legal immigration from hurricane-affected source countries. Hurricane-induced immigration can be fully accounted for by new legal permanent residents (“green card” holders).

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