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The Role of Immigration in Dealing with the Developed World's Demographic Transition

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  • Hans Fehr
  • Sabine Jokisch
  • Laurence Kotlikoff

Abstract

This paper and its companion study, Fehr, Jokisch, and Kotlikoff (2004), develop a three-region dynamic general equilibrium life-cycle model to analyze general and skill-specific immigration policy during the demographic transition. The three regions are the U.S., Japan, and the EU. Immigration is often offered as a solution to the remarkable again underway in the developed world. Absent an immediate and dramatic change in immigration, dependency ratios will roughly double over the next three decades placing fiscal institutions, in particular, and economies, in general, under enormous stress. Can immigration alleviate these stresses? The answer is unclear bacause a number of offsetting factors are at play. First, increased immigration raises the size of the labor force, but also lowers real wages. Hence, the increase in the taxable wage base due to immigration will be less than might otherwise be expected. Second, immigrants arrive with some capital and accumulate more capital as they age. This raises labor productivity and both payroll and income tax bases. Third, immigrants, like natives, require public goods and become eligible for government welfare, health care, and pension benefits. Fiscally speaking, how much one earns' from a new immigrant depends on the immigant's skill level, which, in turn, determines the immigrant's level of earnings. The reason is that taxes and transfer payments are, in general, collected and distributed on a progressive basis. Consequently, high-skilled immigrants deliver a larger bang for the buck when it comes to paying net taxes (taxes paid net of transfer payments received). Our model confirms this point. Nonetheless, its findings, even with respect to high-skilled immigration, which we investigate in detail in this paper, are not pretty. It shows that a significant expansion of immigration, whether across all skill groups or among particular skill groups, will do remarkably little to alter the major capital shortage, tax hikes, and reductions in real wages that can be expected along the demographic transition.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10512.

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Date of creation: May 2004
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Publication status: published as Hans Fehr & Sabine Jokisch & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 2004. "The Role of Immigration in Dealing with the Developed World's Demographic Transition," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 60(3), pages 296-, September.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10512

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  1. Kjetil Storesletten, . "Sustaining Fiscal Policy Through Immigration," Homapage Papers _005, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  2. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & James Sefton & Martin Weale, 1999. "Simulating the Transmission of Wealth Inequity via Bequests," NBER Working Papers 7183, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Mariacristina De Nardi & Selahattin Imrohoglu & Thomas J. Sargent, 1998. "Projected U.S. demographics and social security," Working Paper Series WP-98-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  4. Axel Boersch-Supan & Alexander Ludwig & Joachim Winter, 2001. "Aging and International Capital Flows," NBER Working Papers 8553, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Hans Fehr & Sabine Jokisch & Laurence Kotlikoff, 2003. "The Developed World's Demographic Transition - The Roles of Capital Flows, Immigration, and Policy," NBER Working Papers 10096, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Fehr, Hans, 1999. "Pension reform during the demographic transition," W.E.P. - Würzburg Economic Papers 8, University of Würzburg, Chair for Monetary Policy and International Economics.
  7. Philip Oreopoulos & Alan J. Auerbach, 1999. "Analyzing the Fiscal Impact of U.S. Immigration," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 176-180, May.
  8. Sveinbjörn Blöndal & Stefano Scarpetta, 1999. "The Retirement Decision in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 202, OECD Publishing.
  9. Whitehouse, Edward, 2001. "Pension systems in 15 countries compared: the value of entitlements," MPRA Paper 14751, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Lundborg, Per & Segerstrom, Paul S., 2002. "The growth and welfare effects of international mass migration," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 177-204, January.
  11. Robin Brooks, 2003. "Population Aging and Global Capital Flows in a Parallel Universe," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 50(2), pages 3.
  12. Thai-Thanh Dang & Pablo Antolín & Howard Oxley, 2001. "Fiscal Implications of Ageing: Projections of Age-Related Spending," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 305, OECD Publishing.
  13. David Altig, 2001. "Simulating Fundamental Tax Reform in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 574-595, June.
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