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The Effect of Immigration on the Well-Being of Native Populations: Evidence from the United Kingdom

Papageorgiou, Athanasios (2018): The Effect of Immigration on the Well-Being of Native Populations: Evidence from the United Kingdom.

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Abstract

Immigration has long been a controversial topic in the political landscape of the United Kingdom. Public scepticism over the adverse effects of immigration has largely determined the outcome of the recent referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU. This is especially the case for certain demographic groups, such as older people who tend to be more opposed to immigration. The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between migrant inflows and the subjective well-being of natives in the United Kingdom. The empirical analysis relies on a combined dataset from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) for the entire UK covering the period 2004-2016, while subjective well-being is captured by life satisfaction and general happiness. Using respondents’ geographic identifiers allows us to map net migration at the local authority level. Our results suggest that immigration has only a minor effect on the subjective well-being of natives. We also examine how our estimates vary across socio-demographic groups and conclude that there is some degree of heterogeneity in terms of gender, age, marital and job status, although our results are not statistically significant. To account for endogeneity and reverse causality we apply the instrumental variable (IV) approach. The IV results suggest a positive effect of immigration on natives’ well-being, however the magnitude of the estimated coefficient appears to be quite small. Furthermore, we perform several additional tests to ensure the robustness of our estimates. Finally, we suggest that labour market and health outcomes may be two possible channels through which migrant inflows affect the subjective well-being of British natives.

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