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Tracking Ignorance: Examining Changes in Immigrant Population Innumeracy in the United States from 2005 to 2013

Daniel Herda

Abstract

Citizens’ tendency to overestimate the size of immigrant populations has been the subject of several studies over the past three decades. While we have learned a great deal about the extent, causes, and potential consequences of this population innumeracy, our understanding remains static. The current letter offers the first longitudinal consideration of immigrant population size misperceptions with an analysis across a nine-year span in the U.S. This study considers: 1) whether misperceptions have changed over time; 2) how these changes compare to the growth of the actual foreign-born population size; and 3) whether these changes are related to demographic and ideological factors. Results indicate that misperceptions have grown rapidly in the U.S, far outpacing the modest, actual increases across the period. Pooled cross-sectional analyses indicate that demographic factors do not explain the growth in misperceptions. However, the overestimates of politically conservative Americans have grown increasingly extreme over time.

Keywords

immigration; misperceptions; United States; longitudinal analysis; population innumeracy

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References

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