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Public Deficit Bias and Immigration

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  • Michael Ben-Gad

    (City University London)

Abstract

How much can governments shift the cost of government expenditure from today's voters to tomorrow's generations of immigrants, without resorting to taxation that is explicitly discriminatory? I demonstrate that if their societies are absorbing continuous flows of new immigrants, we should expect governments that represent the interests of today's population, even if that population is altruistically linked to future generations, to choose policies that shift some portion of the tax burden to the future. This bias in favor of deficit finance is not infinite. Today's population or their descendents, together with future immigrants, ultimately pay the higher taxes necessary to finance the accumulated debt, and live with the additional excess burdens these higher taxes generate. For a given rate of immigration and policy horizon, governments balance the deadweight losses associated with fluctuating tax rates against the benefits that accrue to the initial resident population from shifting part of the burden of financing government expenditure to future immigrant families. To measure the deficit bias, I analyse the dynamic behavior of an optimal growth model with overlapping dynasties and factor taxation, calibrated for the US economy. Models with overlapping infinite-lived dynasties allow for a very clear distinction between natural population growth (an increase in the size of existing dynasties) and immigration (the addition of new dynasties). They also provide an alternative to the strict dichotomy between models with overlapping generations, where agents disregard the impact of their choices on future generations, and the quasi-Ricardian world of infinite-lived dynasties with representative agents that fully participate in both the economy and the political system in every period. The trajectory of the debt burden predicted by the model is a good match for the rise in US Federal government debt since the early 1980's, as well as the increases in debt projected by the Congressional Budget Office over the next few decades.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2013 Meeting Papers with number 21.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed013:21

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  1. Zak, Paul J. & Feng, Yi & Kugler, Jacek, 2002. "Immigration, fertility, and growth," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 547-576, April.
  2. Storesletten, Kjetil, 1998. "Sustaining Fiscal Policy Through Immigration," Seminar Papers 664, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  3. Christian Keuschnigg & Mirela Keuschnigg & Reinhard Koman & Erik Lüth & Bernd Raffelüschen, 2000. "Public Debt and Generational Balance in Austria," Empirica, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 225-252, September.
  4. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2008. "A Dynamic Theory of Public Spending, Taxation, and Debt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 201-36, March.
  5. Kjetil Storesletten, 2003. "Fiscal Implications of Immigration-A Net Present Value Calculation," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 105(3), pages 487-506, 09.
  6. Xavier Chojnicki, 2013. "The Fiscal Impact of Immigration in France: A Generational Accounting Approach," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(8), pages 1065-1090, 08.
  7. Robert E. Lucas Jr. & Nancy L. Stokey, 1982. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy in an Economy Without Capital," Discussion Papers 532, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. M. Dolores Collado & Iñigo Iturbe Ormaetxe & Guadalupe Valera, 2002. "Quantifying The Impact Of Immigration On The Spanish Welfare State," Working Papers. Serie AD 2002-04, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  9. Kenneth L. Judd, 1982. "Redistributive Taxation in a Simple Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 572, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  10. Canova, Fabio & Ravn, Morten O., 1998. "The Macroeconomic Effects of German Unification: Real Adjustments and the Welfare State," CEPR Discussion Papers 2038, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Ben-Gad, Michael, 2004. "The economic effects of immigration--a dynamic analysis," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 28(9), pages 1825-1845, July.
  12. Michael Ben-Gad, 2008. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and the Immigration Surplus," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(2), pages 335-365, April.
  13. Nicoletta Batini & Julia Guerreiro & Giovanni Callegari, 2011. "An Analysis of U.S. Fiscal and Generational Imbalances," IMF Working Papers 11/72, International Monetary Fund.
  14. Jim Dolmas & Gregory W. Huffman, 1998. "On the political economy of immigration and income redistribution," Working Papers 9804, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  15. Karin Mayr, 2004. "The fiscal impact of immigrants in Austria--a generational accounting analysis," Economics working papers 2004-09, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  16. 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.
  17. Xavier Chojnicki & Frédéric Docquier & Lionel Ragot, 2011. "Should the US have locked heaven’s door?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 317-359, January.
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  1. Public Deficit Bias and Immigration
    by Christian Zimmermann in NEP-DGE blog on 2013-08-11 23:23:02

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