Immigration is one of the most important issues in our increasingly globalized world. Every year, millions of people relocate to Europe and United States in an effort to improve the quality of life for themselves and their family. With this increase in immigration, there has been an emergence of anti-immigration sentiments which have in turn allowed far right political parties to gain more power, evident in the British referendum to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States. While most works of literature look at the current work status, education level and income of an individual in explaining how anti-immigration sentiments occur, I want to look in more detail at the generational factors that cause individuals to think this way.
Within The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Benjamin Friedman offers a theory that people constitute their happiness on comparing it to “benchmark of their own prior experiences or their parents”. Thus when they believe that their own lives are better, they feel less need to get ahead and they develop a more open view towards immigrants. Building off of Friedman’s argument, I ran regressions using GSS data together with several control variable, to see if Friedman’s argument that anti-immigration sentiments rise as a product of generational experiences rather than based on current socio-economic status, explains the rise that we have seen in anti-immigration sentiments. Our results supported some of Friedman’s theory that individuals who receive a higher education and make more money than their parents are more tolerant to immigrants however it also revealed that generational changes do not reflect the entire story as some generational variables had no impact on our dependent variable.