Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Borders of Compassion: International Migration and the Politics of Parochial Altruism
Authors: Kustov, Alexander
Advisors: Pop-Eleches, Grigore
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Altruism
Public Opinion
Revealed Preferences
Subjects: Political science
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Widespread opposition to increasing immigration among educated and racially egalitarian voters is hard to explain using existing frameworks that attribute these sentiments to self-interest or prejudice. I address this puzzle by developing a theory of parochial altruism, which argues that voters often face an altruist's dilemma: they are willing to help others even at a personal cost, but they want to help their fellow citizens first. Thus, most altruistic voters who are partial toward their compatriots are expected to oppose globally beneficial policies that forgo their national interest. As a result, independent of their other concerns, voters tend to favor harsh immigration restrictions that they perceive as necessary to secure the well-being of compatriots. To test my theory against alternative explanations, I build on existing cross-national surveys and conduct an original population-based study with incentivized economic games and choice experiments in the UK and the US. First, using a novel measure of elicited preferences, I find that most altruists who choose to donate to domestic as opposed to global charities are as anti-immigration as those who choose not to donate at all. Second, using a pre-registered conjoint experiment of policy choice, I demonstrate that, despite ethnic biases, most voters can support increasing immigration from non-European countries if they believe it benefits themselves and their compatriots. Third, I replicate the analysis on environmental preferences and electoral behavior, indicating that the dynamic of parochial altruism generalizes across contexts. That is, at least in major high-income democracies with strong national institutions, voters decide based on what they think is good for themselves and their compatriots but pay little regard to global interests. Given the apparent failure of efforts to change negative perceptions of immigration, the results also suggest that a more effective government strategy is to consider new policy solutions that explicitly and straightforwardly benefit average citizens along with potential migrants.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Kustov_princeton_0181D_12857.pdf1.73 MBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.