Immigrants, Economic Mobility, and Support for Redistribution

Awarded Scholars:
Nathan Nunn, Harvard University
Stefanie Stantcheva, Harvard University
Alberto Alesina, Harvard University
Sandra Sequeira, London School of Economics
Project Date:
Feb 2020
Award Amount:

Economist Nathan Nunn and colleagues will examine the role of upward mobility among immigrants in the past as a predictor of contemporary perceptions of mobility and redistributive preferences. They will assess the extent to which preferences for redistribution in a county today are related to the average immigrant population in that county during the 1850-1920 “Age of Mass Migration.” The PIs will conduct a new, nationally-representative survey measuring individual perceptions of mobility, preferences for redistribution policy, and ancestry. The total sample is expected to include 60,000 respondents across 3,000 counties. This web-based survey will measure perceptions of inter-generational mobility and is designed to allow for comparison of the reported views against the actual income and mobility data of the county. The PIs will measure attitudes towards redistribution by asking about federal fiscal policies related to taxation and spending. They will also ask how respondents would like the government to spend tax revenues, distinguishing between spending more or less targeted on the poor. They will also collect demographic information and other socioeconomic variables. They will analyze the extent to which the relationships between historical immigration and either current perceptions of mobility or attitudes towards redistribution differ among those descended from immigrants who arrived during the Age of Mass Migration relative to those who were just exposed to them (i.e., the native-born).


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