Attitudes Towards Immigration: A Study Of Low-Income Americans


Throughout the history of the United States, immigration has been a major component of our economy and our culture. From Africans in the late 18th and early 19th century to Asians and Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th century, to today, where we have seen a large influx of immigrants come from Central and South America, immigration has been a hot topic throughout our history as a country, especially in the 2016 campaign for the United States Presidency between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The United States has been the top destination for international migrants since at least 1960, with one-fifth of the world’s migrants living there as of 2017. Immigrants want to move to the United States for many different reasons, for instance, trying to escape war or famine. But, I believe that many immigrants want to move to the United States to find a job and raise a family behind the support of that job.

This paper touches on why some Americans believe that immigrants are taking away jobs that they believe are rightfully theirs but will specifically look into why people who have a lower income tend not to support immigration. I believe that since people with low income typically do not have strong job security, their support for immigration will be lower than an American who has a much higher income due to the fear of losing their job or job opportunities to an immigrant. I also think that the United States Presidential election of 2016 played a big role in re-igniting strong feelings both ways in regard to opinions on immigration due to the rhetoric used by then-candidate Donald Trump. This paper will focus on the factors that contribute to the negative feelings held by some low-income Americans toward immigrants.

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Review of Literature

In today’s world, immigration has been a heated topic with two major polarized positions: one side that is strongly pro-immigration and another side that is against immigration. These two sides have sprouted major debates in certain parts of the world, especially in Europe since the Arab Spring of 2011 and in the United States since the Election of 2016. In 2008, when the Lehman Brothers collapsed, it sent Europe into its most severe economic crisis since the 1930s. This economic meltdown led to high unemployment rates. According to JaakBilliet, 10.5% of the European Union was unemployed, or around sixteen million people. Economic instability and feelings of uneasiness lead to poor feelings towards immigrants. Probably the most well-known and followed way to explain immigration attitudes is called the group conflict theory. It states that roots of anti-immigration sentiments and ethnic prejudice should be sought in the realm of the economy. The theory then goes on to predict that economic insecurity breeds ethnic competition for material goods, which in turn creates negative attitudes towards immigrants. This group tends to be those who are in the lower income bracket, those without a job, and low-skilled workers. Material goods are not the only thing at stake for this group of people, however. Some people may feel attacked culturally or symbolically. For instance, the immigrants who are in the out-group follow and promote a different culture than the in-group natives who feel their culture is morally right.

Attitudes Towards Immigration: A Complex Landscape

One interesting take on attitudes towards immigration is how competition in the workforce on all levels of skill can lead to differing opinions on immigration. For example, someone who is a native and has a high skill level will typically oppose immigrants who are highly skilled since they will end up being competition, but support lower-skilled immigrants since the native would not be competing against that immigrant. This stance also ties into how competition drives the level of wages. Peri, Giovanni, and Chad Sparber argued that if workers’ skills are differentiated solely by how much education they have received in their life, and if the production technology and productivity of each type of labor are given, then a large increase of immigrants with little to no education should affect the scarcity of educated groups, increase wages paid to highly educated natives, and reduce wages paid to the natives who have little to no education. According to Peri, Giovanni, and Chad Sparber, over the last few decades, the United States has seen a dramatically large increase in immigrants who have little education.

However, Card and Lewis researched whether or not immigration has any effect on the wages of less educated natives and found no evidence that immigration had any effect whatsoever. Building on this, less educated natives may have feelings of uneasiness towards immigrants for another reason: since 1980, wages for unskilled workers in the United States have not gone up or down. The wages have remained stagnant. Peri goes on to say that immigration can affect wages by changing the relative supply of different types of workers. The example that Peri used to explain this phenomenon was, “If immigration increased the supply of non-college graduates substantially relative to workers in other education levels, then it could contribute to a pure “relative supply” explanation whereby an increase in one type of worker reduces their wages relative to other types of workers.” Stereotypical beliefs are another reason why some people have bad feelings towards immigrants. Burns and Gimpel believe that, yes, opposition to immigration does rise during a period when the economy is performing poorly, but there is another factor that is often overlooked. 

That factor is prejudices that have been formed and held towards these immigrants throughout one’s lifetime. A distinguished line of scholars has explored the idea that economic competition among rival ethnic groups produces hostile and prejudicial attitudes. Recently, low-skilled white people have been found to express the most cruel form of racism because they believe that unskilled immigrants are coming to the country and are ready to take their jobs. According to Mr. Kluegel and Mr. Smith, prejudice is an expression of one’s own interests based on where someone is economically speaking. The two went on to state that anti-immigrant attitudes are traceable to economic anxieties and feelings. In our society, stereotypes are used to simplify and generalize the characteristics of certain groups through labels that attack a group’s traits. An example of this would be those who believe the stereotype that blacks are lazy are likely to be opposed to policies that seek to ameliorate racial discrimination through affirmative action.

Adding to this, Kuklinski, Cobb, and Gilens added another example claiming that those who believe that immigrants are dirty and unwilling to learn English are more likely to oppose immigration than those who do not have those beliefs. Gilens and Burns believe that even though personal and national economic forecasts are somewhat related, there are people who respond to surveys whose personal economic situation is secure but are fearful for the entire nation. Still, Burns and Gilen contend that one’s overall personal financial well-being is critical to the relation of prejudicial attitudes towards immigrants. The two hypothesize that personal economic situations weigh more heavily for attitudes toward immigrants than a more nationalistic outlook on the economy. In the United States, people who have received an education, for the most part, are better off financially than those who did not go to school. Burns and Gilen believe that the more educated someone is, the more likely that person may have liberal values, and for the most part, a liberal ideology has strong support for immigration. Both claim that immigration support is related to education level. The studies that I have listed in this review will help me in my research by giving me extra variables to consider throughout the duration of my research.

Theoretical Argument

Reviewing my sources, I believe that the issue of negative opinions towards immigrants is a lot deeper than what I originally expected. In my opinion, I think the overall performance of the economy in local areas is the main driving factor in how people feel towards immigrants. For instance, let’s say that the economy is doing great in North Dakota but poorly in the state of South Dakota. I believe attitudes toward immigrants in South Dakota would be a lot worse than those attitudes toward immigrants in North Dakota. I also think that one’s level of education also plays a major role. I think that if someone has a high level of education, that means that that person should have a high sense of job security and a high income. Since, in today’s time, the majority of immigrants to the United States are low-skilled and not that educated, that person should not feel threatened and, therefore, not have any negative feelings towards immigrants.

In order to measure attitudes towards immigrants in relation to how much someone makes, I will look at questions that ask about jobs. There are a few questions in particular that I found that would aid me in this investigation. One important question that I found asks the respondents on a scale how worried they are about finding a job in the near future or how easily they or someone they know can find a job in the next 12 months. I think that this is a great question to measure the health of the economy since the better an economy is doing. Usually, there are more job opportunities for people to choose from. Another great question to use that I found asked whether or not the respondent lost a job in the past year. I think using these questions to measure what I am researching will help back up what I believe. If what I find detects there is a relation between income and attitudes towards immigration, I will prove that the more money one makes in a calendar year, the more likely that person supports immigration.


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  2. Burns, P., & Gimpel, J. G. (2000). Economic insecurity, prejudicial stereotypes, and public opinion on immigration policy. Political Science Quarterly, 115(2), 201-225.

  3. Card, D., & Lewis, E. (2007). “The Diffusion of Mexican Immigrants During the 1990s: Explanations and Impacts” in Mexican Immigration to the United States, George J. Borjas (Ed.), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.

  4. Fetzer, J. S. (2000). ‘Economic Self-Interest or Cultural Marginality? Anti-Immigration Sentiment and Nativist Political Movements in France, Germany and the USA.’ Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 26(1), 5-23.

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  16. Peri, G. (2017). “Cato Journal: The Impact of Immigration on Wages of Unskilled Workers.” Cato Institute, 13 Sept. 2017,

  17. Peri, G., & Sparber, C. (2009). ‘Task specialization, immigration, and wages.’ American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(3), 135-69.

  18. Scheve, K., & Slaughter, M. (2001). “Labor Market Competition and Individual Preferences over Immigration Policy.” Review of Economics and Statistics, 83(1), 133–145.

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Nick’s Attitude Towards Gatsby: Between Romance And Reality

Gatsby’s Dual Nature: Straddling the Line Between Dreams and Reality

A recurring theme in The Great Gatsby is romanticism vs. realism. Most people classify Gatsby as a romanticist and Nick as a realist, but I believe that Gatsby is both. It became evident to me that Gatsby portrays the qualities of a realist as well as a romanticist in his relationship with Daisy. Realism is described as the actions characters have that are realistic. At the same time, romanticism is the unrealistic actions characters do that are outlandish and crazy. Romanticism stands out most to me when Gatsby has a hard time winning over Daisy. Gatsby has to try everything in his power to get her attention, like his car, his house, and his clothes. Gatsby listens to his imagination and dreams of having a relationship with Daisy after the war. He listens to these dreams and unrealistic goals more than he does his realistic thoughts. Daisy does not help either by feeding into Gatsby’s love for her when he finally gets her attention; Daisy leads Gatsby on. Moreover, Gatsby realizes he is being nonrealistic in his ways of getting Daisy back: “I found a connection between his idealized version of her and her failure to meet up with his absurd expectations when Gatsby admits to Nick that he felt distant from her” (Cox, Z7).

What is Nick’s Attitude Toward Gatsby? Unraveling the Complex Webs of Love, Reality, and Illusion

Daisy displays romanticism because of her indecisiveness in picking Gatsby (happiness) or Tom (money). “Love is blind” is another theme that shows how romanticism works in this novel. Daisy fell in love with Gatsby’s personality blindly. Also, I think Daisy was sad in her marriage with Tom, and to get over her sadness, she went for Gatsby because he was beautiful and vibrant to her. For example, Daisy sees Gatsby’s colorful shirts that she is not used to seeing: “Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily” (92). Realism is described through not only the characters but also the setting of the novel. East and West Egg are just like East and Long Island in present-day New York. Also, the difference in social status relates to living circumstances today. There are different parts of New York where people have different incomes, and that determines where they live. However, pertaining to the plot and characters themselves, I disagree with Jesse Sheeler: “Unlike Gatsby, Nick is a realist” (X7). I believe that Gatsby is just as much of a realist as Nick is. Gatsby has to realize he will never be able to win Daisy over because she has a husband and now a child. The feud between him and Tom also puts a barrier between Gatsby, making Gatsby realize that he probably won’t be able to live the life he wants with Daisy. Realistically, they cannot be together because Daisy is married to Tom and has a child with him. Also, at the end of the novel, Gatsby’s tragic flaws of romanticism get the best of him, and he dies, making it actually impossible for Daisy to be with him.

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