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Documenting the unauthorized: Political responses to unauthorized immigration

Nicole Rae Baerg, Julie Hotchkiss and Myriam Quispe†Agnoli

Economics and Politics, 2018, vol. 30, issue 1, 1-26

Abstract: Cultural prejudice rather than self interest is the conventional wisdom for why voters respond negatively to immigration. Using a new measure of unauthorized immigrants based on self†reported invalid social security numbers, we show that voters’ responses are more nuanced than mere prejudice against minorities. Using county level data from the U.S. state of Georgia, we find that voters in counties with above median levels of unauthorized workers are more likely to support the Republican Party. We also find that wealthier counties and wealthier voters are most likely to respond negatively to the unauthorized. Our evidence warns against arguments that depict opposition to immigration as motivated solely by xenophobia and cultural fears among lower income Whites.

Date: 2018
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