IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Immigration, Citizenship, and the Size of Government

  • Ortega, Francesc


    (Queens College, CUNY)

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4528.

in new window

Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy: Contributions to Economic Analysis and Policy, 2010, 10 (1), Article 26
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4528
Contact details of provider: Postal:
IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. 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.
  2. 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, 03.
  3. David Card, 2004. "Is the New Immigration Really So Bad?," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0402, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  4. Francesc Ortega & Ryuichi Tanaka, 2007. "Gender specialization in households: An empirical analysis," Economics Working Papers 1021, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  5. Anna Maria Mayda, 2004. "Who is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," Development Working Papers 187, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano.
  6. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4528. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.