Attitudes towards Immigrants and Immigrant Experiences: Predictive models based on regional characteristics

Attitudes towards Immigrants and Immigrant Experie…
01 Jan 2010

In a globally competitive market, New Zealand has set about formulating immigration policy and practices for economic growth and development. At the same time, due consideration has been given to the social impacts of immigration and the challenges of maintaining a socially inclusive, harmonious society. To manage the risks and realise the benefits of immigration it is critical that New Zealand is able to:

  • attract and retain skilled immigrants
  • ensure that immigrants’ skills and talents are used effectively to contribute to economic growth and development
  • facilitate immigrant integration and ensure that social cohesion is not threatened.

Consequently, it is important to consider both New Zealand’s receptiveness towards new migrants and the challenges that new migrants encounter during settlement in this country.

This report makes use of two current sources of national research to assess a range of social impacts of immigration in New Zealand. The first source is the national Attitudes toward Immigrants, Immigration and Multiculturalism (AIIM) Survey. The second source is Wave 1 of the Longitudinal Immigration Survey: New Zealand (LisNZ), which was based on the responses of new migrants surveyed within 6 months of their taking up permanent residence.

The AIIM Survey data were collected by computer-assisted telephone interview in 2004–005 and based on the responses of members of 2,020 randomly selected households. The LisNZ data were based on the responses of 7,137 migrants approved for residence between November 2004 and October 2005. These data were weighted to reflect the characteristics of the population approved for residence during this period. Census data were used to provide information on 1) the proportion of overseas-born and 2) the proportion of overseas-born resident for less than 9 years in New Zealand by territorial authority. This represented the total immigrant and new immigrant populations, respectively. Census data also provided information on unemployment rates by territorial authority.

Data from the above sources were analysed with hierarchical linear modelling to address two questions.

  • Do New Zealanders’ attitudes towards immigrants (valuing immigrants, perceived threat, and endorsement of integration) vary across territorial authorities as a function of immigrant density and unemployment rates?
  • Do immigrant experiences (life satisfaction, perceived discrimination, feelings of settlement and safety, and job satisfaction) vary across territorial authorities as a function of attitudes towards immigrants, immigrant density,and unemployment rates?

The analyses were conducted controlling for income and percentage of New Zealand European residents at the territorial authority level and controlling for individual-level demographic factors (age, gender, education, country of birth, and employment status).

The five key findings were as follows.

  • Attitudes towards immigrants in New Zealand are largely positive.
  • After controlling for the other factors listed above, most indicators of attitudes to immigrants did not show a significant relationship with the density of immigrants in an area.
  • There is some evidence of a curvi-linear relationship between the density of new immigrants and attitudes towards them. While New Zealanders tend to value immigrants more as their numbers increase, at the high end (specifically in Auckland) further increases are associated with more negative attitudes.
  • After controlling for other factors, levels of perceived discrimination decrease as immigrant density increases.
  • Contrary to international research findings, unemployment trends were not found to be related to attitudes towards immigrants, once control variables were included in the model.

Other findings, controlling for other factors, were that: · more positive attitudes (stronger endorsement of integration and lower levels of perceived threat) occur in areas with higher incomes

  • more positive attitudes towards immigrants are found among women, young people, people with higher levels of education, and people who are overseas-born
  • immigrants feel safer in higher income territorial authorities
  • men report greater life satisfaction and feeling more settled, but feeling less safe, than women
  • younger people and people with a higher level of education experience more frequent discrimination and feel less settled in New Zealand.

In addition, migrants who intend to stay in New Zealand for less than 3 years are more likely to be women and less educated. They also are more likely to report experiencing discrimination, experiencing lower levels of life and job satisfaction, and feeling less settled.

The results are discussed in relation to international research on immigrants and immigration, and policy implications are considered. The relationship between immigrant density and attitudes has been examined in a number of international comparative studies, with many finding a link between higher concentrations of immigrants and greater anti-immigrant sentiments. The findings of our research are inconsistent with many of these findings. Generally speaking we found little evidence of a negative relationship between migrant density and either attitudes towards immigrants or immigrant experiences.

Strategies and interventions such as those that increase favourable intercultural contact, and diminish the perceived threat are recommended to assist in maximising the economic benefits and minimising the social risks of immigration.

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018