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Immigration, Citizenship, and the Size of Government

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  • Ortega, Francesc

    () (Queens College, CUNY)

Abstract

This paper analyzes the political sustainability of the welfare state in an environment where immigration is the main demographic force and where governments are able to influence the size and skill composition of immigration flows. Specifically, I present a dynamic political-economy model where both income redistribution and immigration policy are chosen by majority vote. Voters take into account their children's prospects of economic mobility and the future political consequences of today's policies. Over time, the skill distribution evolves due to intergenerational skill upgrading and immigration. I consider three immigration and citizenship regimes. In the first, immigrants stay permanently in the country and citizenship is obtained by birthplace (jus soli). In the second regime immigration is also permanent but citizenship is passed only by bloodline (jus sanguinis). In the third regime immigrants are only admitted temporarily and cannot vote. Our main finding is that under permanent migration and jus soli there exist equilibria where income redistribution is sustained indefinitely, despite constant skill upgrading in the population. However, this is not the case in the other two regimes. The crucial insight is that unskilled voters trade off the lower wages from larger unskilled immigration with the increased political support for redistributive transfers provided by the children of the current immigrants. In contrast, in the regimes where immigrants and their children do not gain the right to vote, unskilled voters oppose any unskilled immigration and political support for income transfers vanishes. We argue that these mechanisms have important implications for the ongoing debates over comprehensive immigration reform in the US and elsewhere.

Suggested Citation

  • Ortega, Francesc, 2009. "Immigration, Citizenship, and the Size of Government," IZA Discussion Papers 4528, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4528
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anna Maria Mayda, 2006. "Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 510-530, August.
    2. Barbera, S. & Maschler, M. & Shalev, J., 2001. "Voting for Voters: A Model of Electoral Evolution," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 40-78, October.
    3. David Card, 2005. "Is the New Immigration Really so Bad?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(507), pages 300-323, November.
    4. Simone Bertoli & Jesus Fernandez-Huertas Moraga & Francesc Ortega, 2011. "Immigration Policies and the Ecuadorian Exodus," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 25(1), pages 57-76, March.
    5. Graziella Bertocchi & Chiara Strozzi, 2010. "The Evolution of Citizenship: Economic and Institutional Determinants," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 95-136, February.
    6. Gordon H. Hanson & Kenneth Scheve & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2007. "Public Finance And Individual Preferences Over Globalization Strategies," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(1), pages 1-33, March.
    7. Francesc Ortega & Ryuichi Tanaka, 2007. "Gender specialization in households: An empirical analysis," Economics Working Papers 1021, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    8. Alessandro Lizzeri & Nicola Persico, 2004. "Why did the Elites Extend the Suffrage? Democracy and the Scope of Government, with an Application to Britain's "Age of Reform"," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 707-765.
    9. Card, David, 2001. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 22-64, January.
    10. Fabio Canova & Morten Ravn, 2000. "The Macroeconomic Effects of German Unification: Real Adjustments and the Welfare State," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 3(3), pages 423-460, July.
    11. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-927, October.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    redistributive policies; citizenship; immigration; political economy;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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