Understanding Attitudes and Policy Preferences in Response to South-South Migration

May 2020 - November 2021
Legs standing on road next to flag of Colombia and border.
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What determines individuals’ attitudes towards migrants, as well as their preferences for different policy responses?

The issue of migration has been central to recent electoral shifts in many immigrant-receiving countries. It has also arguably contributed to the erosion of public trust in governments who are perceived to be ineffective in dealing with increased migrant flows. Despite the relevance of these questions and its importance for the design of public policy, there is limited evidence in this regard. Most existing work has focused on European or North American contexts—particularly around the ‘migration crisis’ of 2015, and much of it relies on the use of observational data. This arguably limits scholars’ abilities to evaluate existing theories about how immigration attitudes form and change, as well as generate new theories, and understand the consequences of these attitudinal shifts for public policy.

We address these limitations by looking at the case of Venezuelan migration to Colombia, an unprecedented wave in recent history. By combining observational data with a pair of original conjoint survey experiments, we aim to shed new empirical and theoretical light on the determinants of immigration attitudes in a context that does not feature obvious differences between migrants and host country citizens. Moreover, we aim to produce evidence showing how the Colombian public perceives different bundles of migration policy options, which presents implications for how regional and national policymakers think about—and ultimately act upon—the issue in the future.

While this project will lead to standalone findings that are distinct from existing literature, we intend for it to be a proof of concept for future work that takes a cross- national perspective on Latin American immigration attitudes and policy preferences, which have been largely ignored despite their salience and political importance for the region.

Principal Investigator

Isabel Ruiz, Official Fellow in Economics, Harris Manchester College


William Allen

Carlos Vargas-Silva


John Fell Fund

World Bank




The Americas