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Title:Attitudes Toward Immigrants and Immigration Policy in the United States: A Structural Approach
Author(s):Sobczak, Michael J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):James R. Kluegel
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies
Abstract:Immigration has recently become an important national issue due in large part to the rise in numbers of immigrants entering the United States (starting around 1965), the shift in the national origins of immigrants, and wage stagnation and economic restructuring occurring as immigrants arrive. In many ways, the recent American response to immigration can be characterized as negative. Such social trends underpin the overarching research question: What factors influence Americans' attitudes toward immigrants and immigration policy? The major weakness of prior research in addressing this question is its failure to recognize that Americans' attitudes are not static across the United States. Immigrants settle and impact different locales in different ways thereby shaping attitudes accordingly. Here I seek to fill this crucial gap in the literature by providing an in-depth understanding of the impact of local structural conditions on Americans' attitudes. Using a survey design, I rely primarily on the 2000 General Social Survey (GSS), a large cross-sectional nationally representative survey. Multilevel modeling is employed to analyze the hierarchical data structure. Results indicate social structure strongly predicts Americans' views of immigration policy, while shaping views of immigrants indirectly via its impact on social-psychological factors (perceived group threat and racism). Contrary to expectations, more favorable views of immigrants and immigration are elicited by residents of locales where structural conditions foster increased levels of intergroup association. For example, white residents of local areas with a fast growing Asian population are found to hold more favorable views of immigrants than residents of locales with a declining Asian population. Likewise white residents of racially and ethnically integrated local areas are found to hold more favorable views of immigrants and immigration (indirectly) than residents of highly segregated locales. Yet, the liberalizing effects of racially and ethnically heterogeneous social structures do not extend to locales with precarious economic conditions or heightened levels of intergroup occupational competition. Instead such structural circumstances are found to prompt negative reactions toward immigrants and immigration. Overall, results suggest a need to revisit contact theory rather than the current focus on the group competition model in the overall broader literature on intergroup dynamics.
Issue Date:2007
Description:249 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3290384
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2007

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