Challenging Change: Geographic Dispersal of the Foreign-Born Population and Local Anti-Immigration Policies

Kevin O'Neil, University of Cape Town

From 2000 to 2009, 215 local governments in the United States seriously considered policies intended to restrict either the settlement of immigrants or the services and benefits available to them. This paper explores the relationship between the dramatic geographic dispersal of the foreign-born population that occurred after 1980 and these policy responses. I find that, at both the county and municipal level, an increase in the proportion of the population that is foreign-born is associated with an increased risk of an anti-immigration policy proposal if that county is voted Republican in 2004 or was located outside of a traditional immigrant gateway state. Geographic dispersal caused the immigrant population to grow more quickly in areas with these characteristics. Partly as a result, simulations show that geographic dispersal of the foreign born population was a key factor promoting the boom in local immigration policy proposals after 2000.

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Presented in Session 134: Residential Mobility, Suburbanization, and Exurbanization