On Normative Effects of Immigration Law


Can laws shape and mold our attitudes, values, and social norms, and if so, how do immigration laws affect our attitudes or views toward minority groups? I explore these questions through a randomized laboratory experiment that examines whether and to what extent short-term exposures to anti-immigration and pro-immigration laws affect people’s implicit and explicit attitudes toward Latinos. My analysis shows that exposure to an anti-immigration law is associated with increased perceptions among study participants that Latinos are unintelligent and law-breaking. In contrast, I find no evidence that exposure to pro-immigration laws promotes positive attitudes toward Latinos. Taken together, these results suggest that exposure to anti-immigration laws can easily trigger negative racial attitudes, but fostering positive racial attitudes through pro-immigration laws might be substantially more difficult. I argue that a fuller appreciation of the impacts of immigration laws requires an understanding of their normative effects—the laws’ impact on people’s judgments about how they ought to view and treat certain social groups or conduct. I conclude by discussing the directions for future research on law, racial attitudes, and intergroup relations.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • Emily Ryo, On Normative Effects of Immigration Law, vol 13 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 95 (2017).
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