Immigration and Redistribution


Alesina, Alberto, Stefanie Stantcheva, and Armando Miano. Working Paper. “Immigration and Redistribution”.
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We design and conduct large-scale surveys and experiments in six countries to investigate how natives' perceptions of immigrants influence their preferences for
redistribution. We find strikingly large biases in natives' perceptions of the number and characteristics of immigrants: in all countries, respondents greatly overestimate the total number of
immigrants, think immigrants are culturally and religiously more distant from them, and are economically weaker -- less educated, more unemployed, poorer, and more reliant on government transfers-- than is the case. While all respondents have misperceptions, those with the largest ones are systematically the right-wing, the non-college educated, and the low-skilled working in immigration-intensive sectors.
Support for redistribution is strongly correlated with the perceived composition of immigrants -- their origin and economic contribution. Given the very negative baseline views that respondents have of immigrants, simply making them think about immigration in a randomized manner makes them support less redistribution. To the contrary, experimentally showing respondents information about the true i) number, ii) origin, and iii) ``hard work'' of immigrants in their country manages to counteract and even outweigh the negative priors and generate more support for redistribution, including actual donations to charities.

Last updated on 09/03/2019