You are here: Home / People / Ryan Finnigan / Publications / Does Immigration Undermine Public Support for Social Policy?

David Brady and Ryan Finnigan (2014)

Does Immigration Undermine Public Support for Social Policy?

American Sociological Review, 79(1):17--42.

There has been great interest in the relationship between immigration and the welfare state in recent years, and particularly since Alesina and Glaeser’s (2004) influential work. Following literatures on solidarity and fractionalization, race in the U.S. welfare state, and anti-immigrant sentiments, many contend that immigration undermines public support for social policy. This study analyzes three measures of immigration and six welfare attitudes using 1996 and 2006 International Social Survey Program (ISSP) data for 17 affluent democracies. Based on multi-level and two-way fixed-effects models, our results mostly fail to support the generic hypothesis that immigration undermines public support for social policy. The percent foreign born, net migration, and the 10-year change in the percent foreign born all fail to have robust significant negative effects on welfare attitudes. There is evidence that the percent foreign born significantly undermines the welfare attitude that government “should provide a job for everyone who wants one.” However, there is more robust evidence that net migration and change in percent foreign born have positive effects on welfare attitudes. We conclude that the compensation and chauvinism hypotheses provide greater potential for future research, and we critically consider other ways immigration could undermine the welfare state. Ultimately, this study demonstrates that factors other than immigration are far more important for public support of social policy.

Document Actions