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The Role of Immigration in Dealing with the Developed World's Demographic Transition

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Listed:
  • Hans Fehr
  • Sabine Jokisch
  • Laurence Kotlikoff

Abstract

This paper and its companion study, Fehr, Jokisch, and Kotlikoff (2004), develop a three-region dynamic general equilibrium life-cycle model to analyze general and skill-specific immigration policy during the demographic transition. The three regions are the U.S., Japan, and the EU. Immigration is often offered as a solution to the remarkable again underway in the developed world. Absent an immediate and dramatic change in immigration, dependency ratios will roughly double over the next three decades placing fiscal institutions, in particular, and economies, in general, under enormous stress. Can immigration alleviate these stresses? The answer is unclear bacause a number of offsetting factors are at play. First, increased immigration raises the size of the labor force, but also lowers real wages. Hence, the increase in the taxable wage base due to immigration will be less than might otherwise be expected. Second, immigrants arrive with some capital and accumulate more capital as they age. This raises labor productivity and both payroll and income tax bases. Third, immigrants, like natives, require public goods and become eligible for government welfare, health care, and pension benefits. Fiscally speaking, how much one earns' from a new immigrant depends on the immigant's skill level, which, in turn, determines the immigrant's level of earnings. The reason is that taxes and transfer payments are, in general, collected and distributed on a progressive basis. Consequently, high-skilled immigrants deliver a larger bang for the buck when it comes to paying net taxes (taxes paid net of transfer payments received). Our model confirms this point. Nonetheless, its findings, even with respect to high-skilled immigration, which we investigate in detail in this paper, are not pretty. It shows that a significant expansion of immigration, whether across all skill groups or among particular skill groups, will do remarkably little to alter the major capital shortage, tax hikes, and reductions in real wages that can be expected along the demographic transition.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans Fehr & Sabine Jokisch & Laurence Kotlikoff, 2004. "The Role of Immigration in Dealing with the Developed World's Demographic Transition," NBER Working Papers 10512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10512
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kjetil Storesletten, 2000. "Sustaining Fiscal Policy through Immigration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 300-323, April.
    2. Lundborg, Per & Segerstrom, Paul S., 2002. "The growth and welfare effects of international mass migration," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 177-204, January.
    3. Sveinbjörn Blöndal & Stefano Scarpetta, 1999. "The Retirement Decision in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 202, OECD Publishing.
    4. David Altig, 2001. "Simulating Fundamental Tax Reform in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 574-595, June.
    5. Axel Boersch-Supan & Alexander Ludwig & Joachim Winter, 2001. "Aging and International Capital Flows," NBER Working Papers 8553, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Hans Fehr & Sabine Jokisch & Larry Kotlikoff, 2003. "The Developed World's Demographic Transition - the Roles of Capital Flows, Immigration, and Policy," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-133, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    7. Mariacristina De Nardi & Selahattin Imrohoroglu & Thomas J. Sargent, 1999. "Projected U.S. Demographics and Social Security," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(3), pages 575-615, July.
    8. Philip Oreopoulos & Alan J. Auerbach, 1999. "Analyzing the Fiscal Impact of U.S. Immigration," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 176-180, May.
    9. Thai-Thanh Dang & Pablo Antolín & Howard Oxley, 2001. "Fiscal Implications of Ageing: Projections of Age-Related Spending," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 305, OECD Publishing.
    10. Gokhale, Jagadeesh & Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Sefton, James & Weale, Martin, 2001. "Simulating the transmission of wealth inequality via bequests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 93-128, January.
    11. Alan Auerbach & Laurence Kotlikoff, 2002. "Auerbach-Kotlikoff Model," QM&RBC Codes 90, Quantitative Macroeconomics & Real Business Cycles.
    12. Whitehouse, Edward, 2001. "Pension systems in 15 countries compared: the value of entitlements," MPRA Paper 14751, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Robin Brooks, 2003. "Population Aging and Global Capital Flows in a Parallel Universe," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 50(2), pages 1-3.
    14. Fehr, Hans, 2000. " Pension Reform during the Demographic Transition," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(3), pages 419-443, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies

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