Immigration is an important election issue that often benefits right-wing political parties. Contemporary European politics is an example par excellence. Immigration in the US has been intermittently at the fringes and centre-stage in recent years, and this column looks at the extent to which US voters care about immigration. The political effect of immigration turns out to crucially depend on the extent to which immigrants participate in the political process. One thing from the research is clear: Republicans are generally opposed to immigration reforms, especially if they include a path to citizenship for currently undocumented immigrants. Naturalised immigrants are a liability for conservative politicians, as they tend to vote for progressive parties.
Giovanni Peri, Anna Maria Mayda, Walter Steingress, 02 February 2016
John Gibson, David McKenzie, Halahingano Rohorua, Steven Stillman, 26 January 2016
Wage differences across countries offer individuals the possibility of huge wage gains through moving abroad. This column uses data on lottery-selected migrants from Tonga to New Zealand to assess the effect on productivity and wages for workers moving from a poor country to a rich country. These randomly selected workers appear to be immediately more productive, and their wage gains are stable over time. It seems that cross-country wage differences are due to better institutions, higher quality capital, and other factors in rich countries that serve to raise the productivity of all workers, whether natives or migrants.
Scott Ross Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, 15 December 2015
The recent influx of refugees to Europe has stoked security fears and created anxiety about the social and economic consequences. This column provides new quantitative indicators for the intensity of migration-related fears and policy uncertainty, based on newspaper articles. The indices are presented for the US, UK, France, and Germany, and extend back to 1995. They show that recent levels of concern and uncertainty in European countries about migration are unprecedented.
Stefano Breschi, Francesco Lissoni, Ernest Miguelez, 07 December 2015
We traditionally think of migrants draining their home country of knowledge and skills, and, instead, giving their all to their host country. Based on patent and inventor data, this column looks at knowledge diffusion conveyed by highly skilled migrants both within their host country as well as back to their homelands. China, South Korea and Russia seem to profit from their diaspora’s knowledge generation but the same can’t be said for India.
Tito Boeri, Marta De Philippis, Eleonora Patacchini, Michele Pellizzari, 24 November 2015
How a host country can best assimilate immigrants is understandably on the minds of West European governments. This column presents new evidence that immigrants in Italy who live in neighbourhoods with a large share of non-Italians are significantly less likely to be in employment than their counterparts in less segregated areas. Furthermore, the negative effect of a large migrant share on employment is magnified by the presence of illegal immigrants in the neighbourhood. This suggests that keeping a large share of illegal immigrants in a country may exert negative externalities on those migrants who have legal status.
Simone Moriconi, Giovanni Peri, 19 October 2015
Unemployment rates vary widely across EU countries. While national institutions and policies explain much of the variation, cultural values, attitudes, and beliefs may also play a role. This column uses survey data from 26 EU countries to investigate the existence of culturally transmitted preferences for work. Country-specific preferences for work are found to have a positive effect on emigrants’ labour market outcomes, with those from countries with an above-average preference for work having higher employment rates abroad. Cultural preferences are significant enough that EU countries may never converge to the same employment rate.
Emilie Anér, Anna Graneli, Magnus Lodefalk, 14 October 2015
A large body of research has established a positive link between immigrants and bilateral trade. However, the temporary movement of people across borders has received less attention. This column uses Swedish data to analyse the impact of temporary cross-border movement on trade. Recently arrived migrants are found to reduce the negative impact of distance on foreign trade, by assisting firms to overcome informal and informational barriers to trade with their origin country. Facilitating movement of people across borders can be a highly useful tool for engaging in and benefitting from specialised and internationalised production networks.
Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano, Giovanni Peri, Greg C. Wright, 17 June 2015
International trade in services and immigration are among the fastest growing aspects of globalisation. Using UK data, this column explores the links between these phenomena. Immigrants promote exports of final services to their home countries, while also reducing imports for some intermediate services, and bringing productivity gains to the labour market. In designing immigration policies, it is important that the potential impact on exports and offshoring activities are carefully considered.
Assaf Razin, Efraim Sadka, Benjarong Suwankiri, 17 January 2015
Allowing greater immigration may raise tax revenue and help pay for the welfare state, but it also affects the future composition of the voting population. This column discusses a political-economy model in which the largest group in a winning coalition chooses tax and immigration policies, and explains how the composition of the voting population changes over time.
Ian Preston, 05 November 2014
Data on social attitudes show that the perceived burden of immigration on a nation’s public finances is one of the strongest economic concerns associated with hostility to immigration. Yet recent official reports suggest an important positive role for immigration in the long-run health of public finances. This column argues that there can be no general conclusions applicable in all circumstances about whether immigration is favourable or unfavourable for public finances. But evidence is emerging on particular cases through studies of immigrant composition and use of services, and the effects of immigration on native outcomes.
Frédéric Docquier, Çağlar Özden, Giovanni Peri, 06 October 2014
Researchers have devoted little attention to the effects of emigration from OECD countries, and the absence of detailed emigration data is the main culprit. Using a new and improved migration database, this column analyses the effect of migration on the wages of less educated native workers. The results suggest that, as far as labour market outcomes of less educated workers are concerned, governments should worry less about new arrivals and more about the potential consequences of their high emigration rates.
Michele Battisti, Gabriel Felbermayr, Giovanni Peri, Panu Poutvaara, 08 August 2014
Immigration continues to be a hotly debated topic in most OECD countries. Economic models emphasising the benefits of immigration for natives have typically neglected unemployment and redistribution – precisely the things voters are most concerned about. This column analyses the effects of immigration in a world with labour market rigidities and income redistribution. In two-thirds of the 20 countries analysed, both high-skilled and low-skilled natives would benefit from a small increase in immigration from current levels. The average welfare gains from immigration are 1.25% and 1.00% for high- and low-skilled natives, respectively.
Francesco Giavazzi, Ivan Petkov, Fabio Schiantarelli, 16 June 2014
The persistence of cultural attitudes is an important determinant of the success of institutional reforms, and of the impact of immigration on a country’s culture. This column presents evidence from a study of European immigrants to the US. Some cultural traits – such as deep religious values – are highly persistent, whereas others – such as attitudes towards cooperation and redistribution – change more quickly. Many cultural attitudes evolve significantly between the second and fourth generations, and the persistence of different attitudes varies across countries of origin.
Timothy J Hatton, 07 June 2014
In the recent European Parliament elections, right-wing populist parties made significant gains. Commentators have linked the rise of these parties to growing anti-immigration sentiment in the wake of the crisis. This column examines the extent to which public opinion has in fact shifted against immigration. Survey data shows that there was no Europe-wide surge in anti-immigration opinion between 2006 and 2010, although there was a marked change in Spain, Greece, and Ireland. This suggests that populist parties’ success cannot be attributed to anti-immigration sentiment alone.
Giovanni Peri, Kevin Shih, Chad Sparber, 29 May 2014
Immigrants to the US are drawn from both ends of the education spectrum. This column looks at the effect of highly educated immigrants – in particular, those with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics – on total factor productivity growth. The authors find that foreign STEM workers can explain 30% to 60% of US TFP growth between 1990 and 2010.
John Helliwell, Shun Wang, Jinwen Xu, 12 March 2014
Social norms have been shown to have important effects on economic outcomes. This column discusses new evidence showing that social norms are deeply rooted in long-standing cultures, but do evolve in reaction to major changes. It draws on a fully global sample involving migrants in more than 130 countries, using seven waves of the Gallup World Poll.
Christian Dustmann, Tommaso Frattini, 13 November 2013
The immigration debate has focused on immigrants’ net fiscal impact – whether they receive more in welfare payments and other benefits than they pay back in taxes. This column summarises research showing that – contrary to popular belief – immigrants who arrived in the UK since 2000 have contributed far more in taxes than they have received in benefits. Compared with natives of the same age, gender, and education level, recent immigrants are 21% less likely to receive benefits.
Charlotte Geay, Sandra McNally, Shqiponja Telhaj, 14 September 2013
Are children who are non-native speakers making education worse for native speakers? Presenting new research on England, this column uses two different research strategies showing that there are, in fact, no spillover effects. These results support other recent studies on the subject. The growing proportion of non-native English speakers in primary schools should not be a cause for concern.
Giovanni Peri, Agnese Romiti, Mariacristina Rossi, 08 September 2013
Elderly people assisted by immigrant carers, rather than by their sons and daughters, has become a common feature of many European countries. This column presents evidence from Italy suggesting that the immigrant presence in the home-care sector has allowed women, especially those with elderly parents, to retire from their jobs later. Increasing the retirement age has to happen over the coming decades to ensure the sustainability of developed countries’ pension systems.
Brian C Cadena, Brian Kovak, 12 August 2013
In the US, fewer and fewer people are moving long distances to pursue job opportunities. Presenting new research on Mexican immigrants in the US, this column argues that there are large welfare gains from the efficient spatial allocation of labour. However, welfare gains from the movement of labour are woefully understudied. If immigrants are more willing to move for a job than natives, policymakers should allow them to do so with ease. Workers should be free to move to markets offering better opportunities.