How immigration can make some UK-born residents feel worse off even if they aren’t

Published in The Conversation, September 6, 2019

Worries about the effects of immigration are prevalent in politics across Europe and the US. In the UK, for instance, concerns over immigration dominate much of the Brexit debate. For many, immigrants are seen as a source of competition for jobs and access to public services (irrespective of whether this is true or not).

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Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019

2nd – 4th July, University of Essex

Immigration and self-reported well-being in England
Peter Howley, University of Leeds

Abstract

In contrast to economic outcomes, relatively little is known about the impact of immigration on natives’ subjective perceptions of their wellbeing. By exploiting spatial and temporal variation in the inflows of migrants into local areas, we find that immigration has a modest negative impact on the subjective well-being of natives as captured by the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ). Certain sub-groups such as relatively older individuals, those with below average household incomes, the unemployed and finally those without any formal educational qualifications experience much more substantive well-being losses than others. These observed wellbeing differentials are congruent with voting patterns evident in the recent UK referendum on EU membership. We put forward perceived as opposed to actual labour market competition and social identity as two potential explanations for the negative wellbeing impacts of immigration for natives.

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It’s not all about the economy stupid! Immigration and self-reported well-being in England

Abstract

While much is known regarding the effects of immigration for objective outcomes, relatively little is known regarding the effects for perceived well-being. By exploiting spatial and temporal variation in the net-inflows of foreign-born individuals across local areas in England, we examine the relationship between immigration and natives’ subjective well-being as captured by the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ). We find small negative effects overall but that an analysis of the main effects masks significant differences across subgroups, with relatively older individuals, those with below-average household incomes, the unemployed and finally those without any formal educational qualifications experiencing much more substantive well-being losses than others. These observed well-being differentials are congruent with voting patterns evident in the recent UK referendum on EU membership. We put forward perceived as opposed to actual labour market competition and social identity as two potential explanations for the negative well-being impacts of immigration for natives.

Reference

Howley, P., Waqas, M., Moro, M., Delaney, L., & Heron, T. (2019). It’s Not All about the Economy Stupid! Immigration and Subjective Well-Being in EnglandWork, Employment and Society. DOI: 10.1177/0950017019866643

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

Abstract

Recent findings suggest that immigration may have adverse consequences for the mental well-being of natives. The main novelty of this work is that we look to understand why. Given the lack of tangible economic costs, the disutility experienced by some natives is likely to have non-economic foundations. We find that individual variability in underlying psychological dispositions such as strength of attachment to an ethnic identity and personality characteristics largely predict the degree to which natives will be impacted by inflows of migrants into their local area. This analysis sheds lights on the mechanisms underpinning the relationship between immigration and well-being.

Reference

Howley, Peter and Waqas, Muhammad and Ocean, Neel (2019) Open Minds, Open Borders: Immigration and the Mental Well-being of Natives. Leeds University Business School Working Paper . DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.3321720

Identity, Immigration and Mental Well-being

Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between immigration and mental well-being. Results point to invisible differences between groups, on the basis of national identities, that can largely predict the degree to which natives will be impacted in mental well-being terms by inflows of migrants into their local area.

Reference

Howley, Peter and Waqas, Muhammad (2019) Identity, Immigration and Mental Well-Being. Leeds University Business School Working Paper Forthcoming. DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.3464210