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The Skill Composition of Immigrants and the Generosity of the Welfare State: Free vs. Policy-Controlled Migration

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  • Cohen, Alon
  • Razin, Assaf

Abstract

The paper analyzes the effect of the generosity of the welfare state on the skill composition of immigrants. We develop a parsimonious model in which the effect of an increase in the generosity (and taxes) of the welfare state on the skill composition of immigrants under free migration is negative. The reason is that welfare state benefits attract unskilled migrants because they contribute to tax revenues less than what they gain from benefits; and this generosity works to deter skilled immigrants, because they contribute in taxes more than in benefits. In sharp contrast, the effect of an increase in the generosity (and taxes) of the welfare state on the skill composition of migrants is positive if migration is controlled by policy. Being net contributors to the welfare state, skilled migrants can help finance a more generous welfare-state system; thus, they are preferred by the policy maker over unskilled migrants. We take the prediction of the model to cross-sectional data on source-host, OECD-EU country pairs in the year 2000. The identification strategy is to use the decomposition the source-host country pairs into two groups: one group, a "free migration" group, source-host country pairs within the EU, and another group, "policy-controlled migration" group, the pairs from non-EU countries into the EU. We find evidence in support of the predictions of the parsimonious model, that the generosity of the welfare state adversely affects the skill-composition of migrants under free migration; but it exerts a more positive effect under controlled migration, relative to the free migration regime.

Suggested Citation

  • Cohen, Alon & Razin, Assaf, 2008. "The Skill Composition of Immigrants and the Generosity of the Welfare State: Free vs. Policy-Controlled Migration," CEPR Discussion Papers 7034, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7034
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Assaf Razin & Edith Sand, 2009. "Migration-Regime Liberalization and Social Security: Political-Economy Effect," NBER Working Papers 15013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Giuranno, Michele G. & Rongili, Biswas, 2012. "Inter-jurisdictional migration and the size of government," MPRA Paper 42604, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Efraim Sadka & Ben Suwankiri & Assaf Razin, 2010. "The Welfare State and the Skill Mix of Migration: Dynamic Policy Formation," 2010 Meeting Papers 13, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Paolo E Giordani & Michele Ruta, 2008. "Prejudice and Immigration," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002276, David K. Levine.
    5. Assaf Razin & Efraim Sadka & Benjarong Suwankiri, 2009. "Migration and the welfare state: Dynamic Political-Economy Theory," NBER Working Papers 14784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Paolo E. Giordani & Michele Ruta, 2016. "Self-confirming immigration policy," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 361-378.
    7. Una Okonkwo Osili & Jia Xie, 2009. "Do Immigrants and Their Children Free Ride More Than Natives?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 28-34, May.
    8. Alon Cohen & Assaf Razin & Efraim Sadka, 2009. "The Skill Composition of Migration and the Generosity of the Welfare State," NBER Working Papers 14738, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Giuranno, Michele & Biswas, Rongili, 2015. "Internal migration and public policy," POLIS Working Papers 183, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
    10. K. Burggraeve & C. Piton, 2016. "The economic consequences of the flow of refugees into Belgium," Economic Review, National Bank of Belgium, issue i, pages 43-61, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    EU and non-EU countries; free migration; policy-controlled migration;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • F4 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance
    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government

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