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Despite well-documented potential gains from immigration, US immigration policy strictly limits immigration flows. This divergence between policy and research findings may be driven by negative individual attitudes toward immigration. Certain factors such as age, education level, political ideology, religion, and exposure to immigrants have all been shown to impact an individual's preference on immigration policy. Other theories, such as the labor market hypothesis or the fiscal burden hypothesis, point to the perceived economic threats of immigration as a leading cause of anti-immigration sentiment. Our paper focuses on risk orientation, a characteristic that determines an individual's trade-offs between risk and return, as a determinant of immigration opinion. We hypothesize that individuals who are risk-averse are more likely to prefer restrictive immigration policy than their risk-acceptant peers. Proving or disproving this hypothesis can aid policymakers in understanding what drives beliefs about immigrants and how that affects policy. For example, by framing immigration policy in a way that mitigates risk, more individuals may be willing to accept policy that is welcoming to immigrants.


Utah State University

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Take a Chance or Play it Safe? The Influence of Risk Orientation on Public Opinion Toward Immigration Policy

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