NICEP logo
  • Print

NICEP 2021-02: The effect of recent technological change on US immigration policy

 

Abstract

Did recent technological change, in the form of automation, affect immigration policy in the United States? I argue that as automation shifted employment from routine to manual occupations at the bottom end of the skill distribution, it increased competition between natives and immigrants, consequently leading to increased support for restricting low-skill immigration. I formalise this hypothesis theoretically in a partial equilibrium model with constant elasticity of substitution in which technology leads to employment polarization, and policy makers can vote on immigration legislation. I empirically evaluate these predictions by analysing voting on low-skill immigration bills in the House of Representatives during the period 1973-2014. First, I find evidence that policy makers who represent congressional districts with a higher share of manual employment are more likely to support restricting low-skill immigration. Second, I provide empirical evidence that representatives of districts which experienced more manual-biased technological change are more likely to support restricting low-skill immigration. Finally, I provide evidence that this did not affect trade policy, which is in line with automation having increased employment in occupations exposed to low-skill immigration, but not those exposed to international trade.

 

Download the paper in PDF format

Author

Björn Brey

Posted on Friday 12th March 2021

Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Economic and Political Research

University of Nottingham
Law and Social Sciences Building
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD


telephone: +44 (0)115 84 68135
email: nicep@nottingham.ac.uk