Attitudes towards immigrants & support for government spending on health care




Shannon, Melissa Maura

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A steady increase of new immigrants to the United States has sparked a great debate on the financial impact the foreign born population has on public services. While the United States government has an extensive history on exclusions for potential public charges, the impact of negative attitudes towards immigrants has caused substantial changes in eligibility criteria for legal permanent residents and ultimately immigration policy at large. This report uses group threat theory, which predicts a punitive response from a dominant group when these individuals perceive a threat to their group interests to explain shifts in attitudes and corresponding changes in eligibility criteria for public benefit programs for immigrants. Additionally, this study examines how U.S. citizens’ misinformed perceptions of immigrants’ utilization of public programs may negatively influence public support for increased government spending on public health care programs. To quantify the implications of public attitudes, the study uses repeat crosssectional data on attitudes towards immigration from the General Social Survey (GSS) from 1994 (N=578), prior to Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. The responses are compared to a similar survey conducted by GSS in 2004 (N=365) an era of steep economic growth and substantially higher health care costs.




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