Borders of solidarity - politics, immigration, and health

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This doctoral dissertation focuses on immigration, healthcare access, and politics. Specifically, my dissertation focuses on understanding the political determinants of immigrants' access to healthcare, the conditions under which citizens are willing to extend access to government healthcare programs, and the impact of shared experiences on attitudes towards immigrants. Existing literature suggests that immigration attitudes are stable, sit along partisan lines, and resist change. In my dissertation, I argue that the right incentives - such as heightening the salience of relatable events or shared political beliefs - can lead the public to support policies that grant undocumented immigrants welfare access. The first paper focuses on public deservingness attitudes and the role of shared risk and ethical norms in support of healthcare expansion. To do so, I use a set of survey experiments. The results of the first survey experiment show that work ethic matters for considerations of healthcare deservingness, but not when the recipient is an undocumented immigrant. Even when undocumented immigrants are presented as hard workers, respondents viewed them as less deserving of government healthcare programs than non-immigrant individuals with a spotty work history. In the second part, I investigate the impact of COVID-19 on public attitudes. The results show that individuals primed to consider their self-interest - by highlighting the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 - and appeals to fairness - asking individuals to consider the impact of leaving ill individuals excluded from medical care - can increase support for allowing undocumented immigrants to have access to government healthcare programs. In the second paper, I explore the effect of a universal and relatable event - falling ill - on attitudes toward undocumented immigrants' access to healthcare. Using a set of pre-registered survey experiments, I show that asking individuals to put themselves in the shoes of an ill undocumented immigrant, unable to get care because of their immigration status, produces increased support for healthcare expansion. Additionally, I leverage the spread of COVID-19 to test and compare the impact of real-life experiences with illness on perspective-taking. The results show that an imagined perspective-taking experience can produce effects that approximate those of lived experience. In the third paper of my dissertation, I focus on the impact of shared political beliefs on immigration preferences. While past scholarship has concluded that the American public prefers immigrants with specific characteristics - such as highly educated individuals - little research has explored the role of immigrants' political ideology on these attitudes. In a pre-registered conjoint survey experiment, I asked respondents to imagine themselves as an immigration officer tasked with deciding which immigrants are worthy of admission into the country. The results show a premium for immigrants who shared respondents' political ideology. At times, a shared political ideology superseded objective aptitude measures, such as education, profession, and work history. Altogether, my dissertation departs from past scholarship by highlighting two critical areas ripe for researchers. First, a large scholarship has explored the impact of different treatments and events, on lowering prejudice towards, among others, undocumented immigrants. Rather than focus on prejudice, my dissertation focuses on public attitudes towards welfare and healthcare access. Second, my dissertation highlights the potential utility of shared experiences on public attitudes. The results illustrate that shared experiences can increase support for immigrant admissions and grant undocumented immigrants access to welfare programs.


Type of resource text
Form electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
Extent 1 online resource.
Place California
Place [Stanford, California]
Publisher [Stanford University]
Copyright date 2023; ©2023
Publication date 2023; 2023
Issuance monographic
Language English


Author Vargas Nunez, Cesar Daniel
Degree supervisor Bonica, Adam
Thesis advisor Bonica, Adam
Thesis advisor Hainmueller, Jens
Thesis advisor Jiménez, Tomás R. (Tomás Roberto), 1975-
Thesis advisor Sniderman, Paul M
Degree committee member Hainmueller, Jens
Degree committee member Jiménez, Tomás R. (Tomás Roberto), 1975-
Degree committee member Sniderman, Paul M
Associated with Stanford University, School of Humanities and Sciences
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Political Science


Genre Theses
Genre Text

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Cesar Vargas Nunez.
Note Submitted to the Department of Political Science.
Thesis Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2023.

Access conditions

© 2023 by Cesar Daniel Vargas Nunez
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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