Japanese Flag with "Immigration" text underneath
Article/journal, East Asia, Migration & borders, Centre for the Study of Global Japan, Munk School

Do Natives Prefer White Immigrants? Evidence from Japan

Does public support for immigration depend on race? One set of literature argues that natives focus on reaping economic benefits and prefer to admit high skilled immigrants. Yet, a second group of studies challenges the notion that natives evaluate skills in a race-neutral fashion. Recent qualitative work argues that natives socially construct the value of foreign workers’ skills. Furthermore, recent experimental studies find that Americans and Europeans prefer immigrants from developed White-majority countries. Do these findings reflect a general preference for White immigrants which also shapes immigration attitudes in non-western countries?

Our study explores this question using a survey experiment fielded in Japan at a time when that country was grappling with economic pressures to admit more immigrants. Consistent with the social construction of skills literature, we find that Japanese unevenly apply skill requirements to prospective immigrants based on nationality but that they do not necessarily prefer White immigrants.