Ex Ante Immigration Policy: How Local Politics Anticipate Future Flows

09 January 2024, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Scholarly work on the politics of immigration in the United States has focused primarily on the influence of local demographics. Less understood are the ways in which local governments respond to demographic changes beyond the city limit. We hypothesize that local governments anticipate future influxes of immigrants from neighboring localities and adjust policies ex ante in order to constrain their movement before it can occur. We predict variation in anti-immigrant legislation as a function of proximity to nearby immigrant populations and find that a 10 percentage point increase in the share of foreign-born populations in a city's surrounding areas doubles the likelihood that a city considers a restrictive policy. The effect is more pronounced when neighboring immigrants originate from Latin America than from other regions. We also find suggestive evidence that knowledge of adjacent foreign born populations is transmitted via commuting patterns as neighboring populations commute into cities for work.


local politics
immigration attitudes
cultural threat
event history analysis


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