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The Immigration Policy Puzzle

  • Paolo E. Giordani
  • Michele Ruta

This paper revisits the puzzle of immigration policy: standard economic theory predicts that free immigration improves natives' welfare, but (with few historical exceptions) an open door policy is never implemented in practice. What rationalizes the puzzle? We first review the model of immigration policy where the policy maker maximizes national income of natives net of the tax burden of immigration (Borjas, 1995). We show that this model fails to provide realistic policy outcomes when the receiving region's technology is described by a standard Cobb-Douglas or CES function, as the optimal policy imposes a complete ban on immigration or implies an unrealistically large number of immigrants relative to natives. Then the paper describes three extensions of this basic model that reconcile the theory with the evidence. The first introduces a cost of integration of the immigrant community in the destination country; the second takes into account the policy maker's redistributive concern across different social groups; the last extension considers positive spillover effects of (skilled) migrants on the receiving economy.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1467-9396.2011.00995.x
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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Review of International Economics.

Volume (Year): 19 (2011)
Issue (Month): 5 (November)
Pages: 922-935

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Handle: RePEc:bla:reviec:v:19:y:2011:i:5:p:922-935
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  1. Timothy J. Hatton & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2008. "Global Migration and the World Economy: Two Centuries of Policy and Performance," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262582775, June.
  2. Bentolila, Samuel & Saint-Paul, Gilles, 1998. "Explaining Movements in the Labour Share," CEPR Discussion Papers 1958, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Facchini, Giovanni & Mayda, Anna Maria & Mishra, Prachi, 2007. "Do Interest Groups Affect Immigration?," IZA Discussion Papers 3183, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Duffy, John & Papageorgiou, Chris, 2000. " A Cross-Country Empirical Investigation of the Aggregate Production Function Specification," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 87-120, March.
  5. Benhabib, Jess, 1996. "On the political economy of immigration," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(9), pages 1737-1743, December.
  6. AntrĂ s Pol, 2004. "Is the U.S. Aggregate Production Function Cobb-Douglas? New Estimates of the Elasticity of Substitution," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-36, April.
  7. Rainer Klump & Peter McAdam & Alpo Willman, 2007. "Factor Substitution and Factor-Augmenting Technical Progress in the United States: A Normalized Supply-Side System Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(1), pages 183-192, February.
  8. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
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