Rural residence as a determinant of attitudes toward US immigration policy

Katherine Fennelly, Christopher Federico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Between 1990 and 2000, the foreign-born population in the United States increased by 57 per cent, compared to a 13 per cent increase in the native-born population. This growth has fueled considerable media attention and has fomented some anti-immigrant sentiments. Although a number of authors have charted changes in support for restrictionist immigration policies, few have examined their determinants. In this paper, we focus on region of residence and use data from a 2004 telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 1888 adults to test the hypothesis that rural Americans are more likely to support restrictive immigration policies than individuals in urban and suburban communities. In a series of regression analyses, this hypothesis is confirmed; rural residents hold the most restrictionist views. Additional analyses indicate that this effect of rural residence on policy attitudes is mediated by attitudes toward multiculturalism, the perceived traits of immigrants, and perceptions about the costs of immigration. Ultimately, the analyses indicate that the perceived cost of immigration is the single strongest predictor of support for restrictive immigration policies, and that it best accounts for rural residents'more restrictionist views.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-190
Number of pages40
JournalInternational Migration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008


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