Insights on Immigration and Development
Working Papers
Working paper # 13

Labor-Market Exposure as a Determinant of Attitudes toward Immigration

By Francesc Ortega and Javier G. Polavieja
(December 2009)

This paper re-examines the role of labor-market competition as a determinant of attitudes toward immigration. We claim two main contributions. First, we use more sophisticated measures of the degree of exposure to competition from immigrants than previously done. In addition to education, we focus on the protection derived from (self-assessed) investments in job-specific human capital and from specialization in occupations that are (objectively) intensive in communication tasks. Second, we explicitly account for the potential endogeneity arising from job search. Methodologically, we estimate, by instrumental variables, an econometric model that allows for heterogeneity at the individual, regional and country level. Drawing on the 2004 European Social Survey, we obtain the following main results. First, natives that dislike immigrants tend to work in low-immigration jobs, biasing OLS estimates. Second, working in jobs that require high levels of specific human capital and/or high communicational skills leads to relatively more pro-immigration attitudes. We also show that these effects are distinct from the protection from immigrant competition provided by formal education. Overall our results suggest a large role for skill-based labor market competition in determining individual attitudes toward immigration.

JEL Classification: F1, F22, J61, J31, R13
Keywords: Immigration Attitudes, Labor Market, Job-Specific Human Capital, Communication Skills, International Migration.


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