Attitudes Towards Immigration: a Trade-Theoretic Approach



The paper uses a three-factor (capital, low- and high-skill labor), two-household (low- and high-skill individuals), two-sector trade model to analyze the determinants of voter attitudes towards immigration under direct democracy, and to identify factors that would be coherent with both the observed increase in the skilled–unskilled wage differential and the stiffening attitudes towards low-skill capital-poor immigration. If the import-competing sector is intensive in the use of low-skill labor, and capital is the middle factor, an improvement in the terms of trade or neutral technical progress in the exporting sector leads nationals to oppose immigration of capital-poor low-skill households. An increase in income inequality is also likely to stiffen attitudes towards this type of capital-poor, low-skill immigration prevalent in Europe until recently.