Do Immigrants Import Terrorism?

July 31, 2019 • Working Paper No. 56
By Andrew C. Forrester, Benjamin Powell, Alex Nowrasteh, & Michelangelo Landgrave

The relationship between immigration and terrorism is an important public policy concern. Using bilateral migration data for 174 countries from 1995 to 2015, we estimate the relationship between levels of immigration and terrorism using an instrumental variables (IV) strategy based on the initial distribution of immigrants in destination countries. We specifically investigate rates of immigration from Muslim Majority Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries and countries engaged in conflicts. We find no relationship between stocks of immigrants and terrorism, whether measured by the number of attacks or victims, in destination countries.

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About the Authors
Andrew Forrester is a research associate at the Cato Institute. Benjamin Powell is Professor of Economics, Rawls College of Business and director of the Free Market Institute Texas Tech University. Alex Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute. Michelangelo Landgrave is a doctoral student in political science at the University of California, Riverside.