Welcoming Immigrants with Similar Occupational Interests: Experimental Survey Evidence from Hong Kong

Siu Yau Lee*, Lina Vyas, Kee Lee Chou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies in America and Europe suggest that individual economic self-interest plays little role in explaining individual attitudes towards immigrants. A key piece of evidence for this proposition is that natives do not show particular hostility towards immigrants whose skill levels are similar to their own. We conducted an experimental survey of Hong Kong residents to examine their attitudes towards immigrants from Mainland China. We found that positive attitudes towards low-skilled immigrants were more prevalent among local labourers – whose job security would presumably be under greater threat from them – than among executives and professionals. Similarly, the premium attached to highly skilled immigrants increases significantly with locals’ occupational prestige, suggesting that immigrants are more likely to find support among natives who share similar occupational interests. Our results remain robust even after controlling for a range of potential explanatory variables. We conclude with a critical discussion of the use of skill levels to estimate the occupational interests of natives and assess the value of relying on the conventional labour market competition model to generate hypotheses about the role of economic self-interest in shaping immigration preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-412
Number of pages22
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • attitudes towards immigrants
  • economic self-interest
  • labour market competition
  • skill level


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