Individual attitudes towards immigration are powerfully driven by ethnic context, that is, size of foreign-born population. We advance the literature by examining how the change (growth) in foreign-born population, in addition to its size (level), is related to two distinct outcomes: natives’ views on legal and unauthorized immigration. By analysing a probability US sample, we find that an increase in the state-level immigration population is positively related to Americans’ approval of a policy aimed at containing the flow of undocumented immigrants. The proportion of immigrants in a state, however, is not a significant predictor of support for such restrictive policy. With respect to legal immigration, neither the amount of recent change in, nor the size of, the immigration population matters. Our study provides strong evidence for contextual effects: net of compositional factors, a dynamic change in foreign-born population has an independent impact on how Americans view unauthorized, but not legal, immigration.
- anti-immigrant attitudes
- ethnic context
- legal versus unauthorized immigration
- level of and change in immigration
- outgroup contact