Fear or Competition? Antecedents to U.S. Business Student Immigration Attitudes

Michael J. Maloni, Kennesaw State University
David M. Gligor, University of North Texas
Tim Blumentritt, Kennesaw State University
Nichole Gligor, University of North Texas


Immigration is an important and contemporary topic in management education given its impact on labor, wages, innovation, and diversity. However, extant research offers few insights into the antecedents to student immigration attitudes. Survey data from undergraduate students taking business courses at two large public universities in the southeast U.S. reveal that while student attitudes toward immigration are more moderate than the general U.S. population, these attitudes differ by gender, political affiliation, and immigration background. Following realistic conflict theory and social identity theory, these student immigration attitudes are a function of both fear and competition. First, their attitudes are confounded by conflicting antecedents in perceived personal competition for resources with immigrants (e.g., jobs, wages) versus immigration benefits (e.g., costs, labor base, innovation). Second, xenophobia (fear of immigrants) is a remarkably powerful influencer of one’s immigration attitude and its antecedents. With these points, management educators must engage students in critical thinking about immigration to prepare them to effectively work with diverse colleagues and business partners while leading global organizations. We, therefore, present four cross-disciplinary areas of intersection between immigration and management education, including diversity and cultural intelligence, human resource management and ethics, entrepreneurship and innovation, and finally, economic and socioeconomic impacts.