, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 261-284
Date: 19 Oct 2012

Should International Migration Be Encouraged to Offset Population Aging? A Cross-Country Analysis of Public Attitudes in Europe

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Concerns about population aging in Europe have occupied the attention of policy makers and demographers for over a decade. Some policy makers have proposed increased immigration to offset the aging of the population (i.e., replacement migration). However, demographers have estimated that a very high (and likely untenable) level of immigration would be required, and little is known about whether the national publics of Europe would support international migration as a potential solution to population aging. Using Eurobarometer data from 2006 and concurrent country-level measures from Eurostat, this study examines individual- and contextual-level factors related to public attitudes toward immigration as an effective solution to the problem of population aging in the current 27 member countries of the European Union. Results from multilevel logit analyses indicate that urban, university-educated, and childless individuals are consistently more likely than others to endorse replacement migration. Countries with more prosperous economies and proportionally fewer foreign-born residents also show more supportive attitudes. Such results echo research on anti-immigrant sentiment, suggesting considerable public resistance to population policies that might encourage large-scale immigration. At the same time, these findings show consistent patterns of endorsement despite demographers’ criticism of the concept of replacement migration and concerns about developing alternative long-term strategies.