Do Local Anti-Immigration Laws Slow Demographic Change?

Kevin O'Neil, Princeton University

In the past decade, more than 250 American towns and counties seriously considered adopting policies intended to control the impact of immigration. These local policies ranged from restrictions on hiring unauthorized immigrants, to immigration enforcement by local police, to declaring English the official language. This paper provides evidence that these policies have shaped the demographic makeup of these communities, using the ethnicity of students attending local schools as a proxy. However, these policies appear to have an effect on population change only when economic conditions are deteriorating. School districts in localities that passed anti-immigration policies or enrolled in the 287(g) immigration enforcement program had significantly smaller gains in the percentage of students who were Hispanic when local unemployment rates increased. No comparable association was found for communities that considered but did not pass anti-immigration laws.

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Presented in Session 115: Immigration and Public Policy