Immigration, Backlash, and Democracy

Ryan Pevnick

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    How do considerations related to backlash affect the desirability of pursuing otherwise justified immigration policies? This paper argues that backlash-related considerations bear on immigration policy decisions in ways that are both more powerful and complicated than typically recognized. The standard possibility, the egalitarian backlash argument, endorses immigration restrictions in order to protect support for egalitarian distributive institutions. The paper shows that this account does not, by itself, provide a convincing rationale for restricting immigration because such diminished support is (a) likely outweighed by the benefits of more permissive immigration policies and (b) caused by the objectionable preferences of citizens. However, the paper develops an alternative account of the relevance of backlash-related considerations, the democratic backlash argument, which holds that increased levels of immigration threaten to contribute to undermining democratic institutions. This argument provides a more powerful rationale for restricting immigration, one that can - under identified conditions - justify immigration restrictions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)332-344
    Number of pages13
    JournalAmerican Political Science Review
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Feb 1 2024

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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