Open Minds, Open Borders: Immigration and the Mental Well-being of Natives


While there is a rich literature, particularly in the economic sciences, exploring the consequences of immigration for economic outcomes, we know comparatively little about the impact for psychological well-being. Through linking a large geo-referenced longitudinal household survey with local-level immigration data, we document a negative relationship between inflows of migrants into local areas and the psychological well-being of natives living in those areas. The main novel feature of this work is that we demonstrate how these main effects mask considerable heterogeneity according to differences in underlying psychological dispositions. For some groups, such as those with high scores on constructs measuring importance of ethnicity to one’s self concept, and low scores on openness and particularised trust, the negative estimated impacts associated with inflows of migrants can be substantive. On the other hand, we find that immigration is positively associated with the psychological well-being of individuals with high scores on openness and particularised trust. More broadly, our results highlight the importance of underlying psychological dispositions, as opposed to more commonly examined visible differences between people (e.g. socio-demographic traits), in moderating the relationship between immigration and psychological well-being.

Keywords: psychological well-being; personality; prejudice; openness; identity; trust


Howley, Peter and Waqas, Muhammad and Ocean, Neel (2020) Open Minds, Open Borders: Individual differences in the relationship between immigration and psychological well-being. Leeds University Business School Working Paper . DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.3321720