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Can International Migration Ever Be Made a Pareto Improvement?




We argue that compensating losers is more difficult for immigration than for trade and capital movements. While a tax-cum-subsidy mechanism allows the government to turn the gains from trade into a Pareto improvement, the same is not true for the so-called immigration surplus, if the redistributive mechanism is not allowed to discriminate against migrants. We discuss policy conclusions to be drawn from this fundamental asymmetry between migration and other forms of globalization.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriel J Felbermayr & Wilhelm Kohler, 2009. "Can International Migration Ever Be Made a Pareto Improvement?," Diskussionspapiere aus dem Institut für Volkswirtschaftslehre der Universität Hohenheim 305/2009, Department of Economics, University of Hohenheim, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:hoh:hohdip:305

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. George J. Borjas, 1995. "The Economic Benefits from Immigration," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 3-22, Spring.
    2. Peter J. Hammond & Jaume Sempere, 2006. "Gains from Trade versus Gains from Migration: What Makes Them So Different?," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 8(1), pages 145-170, January.
    3. Timothy J. Hatton, 2007. "Should we have a WTO for international migration?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 22, pages 339-383, April.
    4. Gabriel J Felbermayr & Wilhelm Kohler, 2014. "Immigration and Native Welfare," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: European Economic Integration, WTO Membership, Immigration and Offshoring, chapter 10, pages 335-372 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    5. Markusen, James R., 1983. "Factor movements and commodity trade as complements," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3-4), pages 341-356, May.
    6. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
    7. Richard B. Freeman, 2006. "People Flows in Globalization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 145-170, Spring.
    8. Jagdish Bhagwati & Arvind Panagariya, 2004. "The Muddles over Outsourcing," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 93-114, Fall.
    9. Tito Boeri & Herbert Brücker, 2005. "Why are Europeans so tough on migrants?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 20(44), pages 629-703, October.
    10. Dixit, Avinash & Norman, Victor, 1986. "Gains from trade without lump-sum compensation," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1-2), pages 111-122, August.
    11. Ruffin, Roy J., 1984. "International factor movements," Handbook of International Economics,in: R. W. Jones & P. B. Kenen (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5, pages 237-288 Elsevier.
    12. L. Alan Winters & Terrie L. Walmsley & Zhen Kun Wang & Roman Grynberg, 2003. "Liberalising Temporary Movement of Natural Persons: An Agenda for the Development Round," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(8), pages 1137-1161, August.
    13. Stark, Oded & Wang, Yong, 2002. "Inducing human capital formation: migration as a substitute for subsidies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 29-46, October.
    14. Kohler, Wilhelm, 2004. "Eastern enlargement of the EU: a comprehensive welfare assessment," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 26(7), pages 865-888, October.
    15. Davidson, Carl & Matusz, Steven J. & Nelson, Douglas R., 2007. "Can compensation save free trade?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 167-186, March.
    16. Kohler, Wilhelm K., 2004. "Eastern Enlargement of the EU : A Comprehensive Welfare Assessment," HWWA Discussion Papers 260, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWA).
    17. Wellisch, Dietmar & Walz, Uwe, 1998. "Why do rich countries prefer free trade over free migration? The role of the modern welfare state," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(8), pages 1595-1612, September.
    18. Willmann, Gerald, 2004. "Pareto gains from trade: a dynamic counterexample," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 199-204, May.
    19. repec:eme:rlecpp:rlec.2007.27 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Calvo, Guillermo & Wellisz, Stanislaw, 1983. "International factor mobility and national advantage," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1-2), pages 103-114, February.
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    Blog mentions

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    1. Can migration be Pareto optimal?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2009-07-29 19:40:00


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    Cited by:

    1. Felbermayr, Gabriel J. & Hiller, Sanne & Sala, Davide, 2010. "Does immigration boost per capita income?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 177-179, May.

    More about this item


    Gravity model; international trade; international migration; cross-country income regression;

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • D50 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - General
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration

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