A Change of Heart or Change of Address? The Geographic Sorting of Whites' Attitudes towards Immigration

Ariela Schachter, Stanford University

Do White Americans change their attitudes when immigrants move into their neighborhoods? Evidence from public opinion research remains mixed and infers causality from cross-sectional data. Drawing from research on White flight, I instead propose a sorting model: White Americans who are predisposed to dislike immigration leave neighborhoods with growing immigrant populations and move to places with fewer immigrants. In the long run, Whites with liberal immigration attitudes remain in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations, while those with more conservative attitudes move away. Using geocoded panel data from the General Social Survey (2008-2010), I find no evidence that immigrant influxes cause changes in individual attitudes, but find preliminary evidence in support of the sorting model. The residential mobility of White Americans may be a key mechanism linking local immigrant population size and public opinion on immigration.

  See paper

Presented in Session 125: Linking International and Internal Migration