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Disentangling the relationship between immigration and environmental emissions

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Abstract

Immigrants have historically been accused of being unassimilable, responsible for driving down wages, taking jobs away from native workers, and disproportionately drawing benefits from education, health care, and social services. With environmental concerns gaining more traction, they have also been blamed for contributing to climate change. Previous empirical contributions, however, have suggested that immigration may actually improve air quality, but their findings have been largely based on cross-sectional data and estimations not addressing endogeneity between immigration and environmental emissions and between income and emissions. This study provides a more compelling and accurate disentangling of the link between immigration and environmental emissions by using panel US state-level data over the 1997–2014 period and by controlling for endogeneity, other confounding factors, and spatial variation. It presents evidence of a negative and bidirectional link between the share of immigrants and emissions of CO2, CH4, and N2O. These findings suggest that immigration may indeed yield environmental benefits and that environmental quality may represent an important factor or amenity influencing immigration flows. Future research should build on these results to further identify and assess all potential immigration-emissions pathways, ideally using more disaggregated data while taking into account potential generational variation.

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Acknowledgments

The author is sincerely grateful to three anonymous reviewers and Elizabeth Fussell for suggestions that have greatly improved the paper. The views expressed in this paper are the author’s and do not reflect those of the American University of Sharjah. All remaining errors are the author’s own.

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Correspondence to Jay Squalli.

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Squalli, J. Disentangling the relationship between immigration and environmental emissions. Popul Environ 43, 1–21 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-020-00369-z

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