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Population Aging and Individual Attitudes toward Immigration: Disentangling Age, Cohort and Time Effects


  • Most of the work on this paper was carried out while I was affiliated to RWTH Aachen University, as part of a research project sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG). I thank participants of the 2010 SOEP User Conference for their helpful comments. Furthermore, I am greatly indebted to Wido Geis who reran my regressions on the latest available SOEP data. However, any data or computational errors in this paper are my own.


In the face of rising old-age dependency ratios in industrialized countries such as Germany, politicians and their electorates are discussing the loosening of immigration policies as one policy option to ensure the sustainability of public social security systems. The question arises whether this policy option is feasible in aging countries. Are their electorates becoming more favorable to immigration? The attitudes of the people living in the recipient locations are a key issue in the study of migration and culture. This paper uses the 1999–2010 waves of the German Socio-Economic Panel to disentangle the effects of age, birth cohort and time on concerns about immigration. Older birth cohorts are found to be more concerned than younger ones whereas concerns are found to decrease over the life cycle. Both findings suggest scope for the loosening of immigration constraints.