Department of Political Science
Perceptions of Welfare Dependency and Support for Immigration
A persistent source of contention in the debate over immigration reform in the U.S. is whether and to what extent (undocumented) immigrants should qualify for federal, state, and local welfare benefits. Recent work in political economy indicates that the government policies that regulate such benefits not only reflect public opinion, but also affect public opinion. A prominent hypothesis is that where immigrants are eligible for generous welfare benefits, natives should oppose immigration. Such opposition may stem from concerns over an increased tax burden or concerns over welfare crowding (a diluted pool of welfare benefits), or both. Empirical support for this theory is mixed. Previous studies have not, however, experimentally varied perceptions about welfare policy, raising well-known concerns about omitted variable bias. My survey experiment addresses this gap in the literature, and finds no evidence that welfare generosity greatly impacts immigration preferences in the U.S.