Perceived economic security, relative gratification, and xenophobic sentiment during the Trump administration

Harris Hyun Soo Kim, Chae Eun Kim, Hyun Jin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The bulk of prior research focuses on economic hard times as a source of material insecurity and relative deprivation in fueling negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration. The present study shifts the focus to a novel concept: relative gratification. During the height of Trump administration, the American economy enjoyed unprecedented growth and stability. Yet, as our study shows, anti-immigrant sentiment became more pronounced among US citizens with greater perceived material security, i.e., those who felt more relatively “gratified.” What is the logic behind this seemingly paradoxical outcome? By drawing on insights from the social psychology literature, we propose and demonstrate that favorable macroeconomic conditions instilled in some people a sense of privileged entitlement and heightened national pride, both of which contributed to hostilities toward the foreign born. Our moderation analysis also indicates that controlling for a proxy for Trump approval, this relationship was stronger for Republican-leaning individuals as well as those who self-identify as being more politically conservative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-195
Number of pages26
JournalSociological Spectrum
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2023

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