What drives stated policy preferences about the number of foreigners? Is it self-interest, as stressed by the political economy of immigration? Does social interaction affect this preference, or is the immigration policy preference completely in line with the preference for the aggregate population size? In this paper we distinguish each of these categories and show, for the case of the Netherlands, that each of these elements applies, although the effect of population size preference and self-interest are the most important elements. There is a clear divide across educational levels, as the less educated are more strongly opposed to immigration than the highly educated: the less educated are more likely to think there are too many foreigners. Experience with foreigners arising from social contact matters in positively appreciating immigrants, especially if people meet non-Western foreigners at work and school. Contact with foreigners while going out decreases people's preference for immigrants. The ethnic concentration of the neighbourhood in which people live does not exert a noticeable effect on the evaluation of the number of foreigners present. The biggest effect on immigration policy preferences is, however, the aggregate population size preference of respondents.

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doi.org/10.1007/s10645-004-7130-3, hdl.handle.net/1765/71613
De Economist
Erasmus School of Economics

van Dalen, H., & Henkens, K. (2005). The rationality behind immigration policy preferences. De Economist, 153(1), 67–83. doi:10.1007/s10645-004-7130-3