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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Challenging change: Local policies and the new geography of American immigration
by O'Neil, Kevin Singleton, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2011, 163; 3481709
Abstract (Summary)

Over the past three decades, the US foreign born population spread from a few major cities into smaller cities and towns across the country. This dissertation describes unappreciated implications of this geographic dispersal and tests theories about the way citizens and local governments in these “new immigrant destinations” reacted. I first use a representative survey from a pair of matched North Carolina counties—one with a rapidly growing immigrant population and one without—to test theories of how an influx of immigrants may change natives' opinions about immigration. Only natives in precarious economic circumstances appeared to feel threatened by local immigration. I also explore the relationship between opinions about immigration and political beliefs, media consumption and parenting.

I then construct a unique dataset showing that 215 local governments considered policies intended to restrict immigration from 2000 to 2009. Greater changes in a jurisdiction's foreign born population share are associated with a greater probability that an anti-immigration policy will be considered. I find that this association is stronger if that jurisdiction 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. As a result, simulations show that geographic dispersal of the foreign born population was a key factor promoting the boom in local anti-immigration policy proposals.

Case studies and media accounts suggest that immigrants and Hispanics left or avoided jurisdictions that implemented anti-immigration policies. I test whether these policies impacted the demographic composition of these communities by examining changes in the ethnic makeup of students attending local schools, while taking economic conditions into account. Implementing a 287(g) immigration enforcement agreement is associated with substantially smaller increases in the percent of students who are Hispanic two years following the agreement. This association appears to result not from the policies alone, but from the interaction of the policies and increasing unemployment. I find no association between other types of local immigration control policies and subsequent changes in the percent of students who are Hispanic.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tienda, Marta
Commitee: Dancygier, Rafaela, Espenshade, Thomas, Fernandez-Kelly, Patricia, Massey, Douglas
School: Princeton University
Department: Public and International Affairs
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 73/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Public policy, Demography
Keywords: 287(g), Anti-immigration, Immigration, Immigration enforcement, Immigration ordinances, Local immigration policies, North Carolina
Publication Number: 3481709
ISBN: 978-1-267-01128-2
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