Local economic benefits increase positivity toward foreigners


Can exposure to discernible economic benefits associated with the presence of a high-socioeconomic status immigrant group reduce xenophobic and antiforeigner attitudes? We explore this question using the case of Chinese internationals in the United States and an exogenous influx of foreign capital associated with their presence. Using a difference-in-differences design with panel data, along with analyses of pooled cross-sectional data, we find that immigration attitudes, as well as views towards China, became more positive over time among Americans residing in locales whose economies were stimulated by Chinese foreign investments. Our findings have implications for research on public attitudes towards immigration in an era of growing flows of high-socioeconomic status immigrants to the United States and other immigrant-receiving nations.

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Fig. 1: The effect of Chinese FREI exposure on individual attitudes.
Fig. 2: Potential mechanisms: substantive effects of Chinese FREI exposure.
Fig. 3: Predicted perception of China threat.
Fig. 4: The effect of Chinese FREI exposure on home prices in US ZIP codes.

Data availability

Replication data are available on the Harvard Dataverse at: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/GY8PXP.

Code availability

Replication code is available on the Harvard Dataverse at: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/GY8PXP.


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S.L. received funding from the Hellman Foundation for this work. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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S.L., N.M. and B.J.N. conceived the research, designed the analyses, conducted the analyses and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Neil Malhotra.

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Liao, S., Malhotra, N. & Newman, B.J. Local economic benefits increase positivity toward foreigners. Nat Hum Behav 4, 481–488 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0828-7

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