Immigration has increasingly taken centre-stage in the political landscape. Part of this has been a rise in far-right, anti-immigration parties in a range of countries. Existing evidence suggests that the presence of immigrants generates an advantage for parties with anti-immigration or nationalist platforms. This paper explores a closely related but overlooked issue: how immigrant behaviour is influenced by these parties. We focus on immigrant location decisions in Northern Italy, an area that has seen the rise of the anti-immigration party Lega Nord. We construct a dataset of mayoral elections in Italy for the years 2002–2014 and estimate the effect of electing a mayor belonging to, or supported by, Lega Nord. Exploiting close elections in a regression discontinuity framework we demonstrate that the election of a Lega Nord mayor discourages immigrants from moving into the municipality. We also provide suggestive evidence that the effect is driven primarily by the anti-immigration politics of Lega Nord insofar as it is absent in the period before their adoption of an explicitly anti-immigration platform and is concentrated in smaller, less educated, municipalities.
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