Research / BFI Working PaperFeb 08, 2021

The Immigrant Next Door: Exposure, Prejudice, and Altruism

Leonardo Bursztyn, Thomas Chaney, Tarek A. Hassan, Aakaash Rao

We study how decades-long exposure to individuals of a given foreign descent shapes natives’ attitudes and behavior toward that group, exploiting plausibly exogenous shocks to the ancestral composition of US counties. We combine several existing large-scale surveys, cross-county data on implicit prejudice, a newly-collected national survey, and individualized donations data from large charitable organizations. We first show that greater long-term exposure to Arab-Muslims: i) decreases both explicit and implicit prejudice against Arab-Muslims, ii) reduces support for policies and political candidates hostile toward Arab-Muslims, iii) increases charitable donations to Arab countries, iv) leads to more personal contact with Arab-Muslim individuals, and v) increases knowledge of Arab-Muslims and Islam in general. We then generalize our analysis, showing that exposure to any given foreign ancestry leads to more altruistic behavior toward that group.

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