Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The Political Economy of Immigration Policy

Facchini, Giovanni and Mayda, Anna Maria (2009): The Political Economy of Immigration Policy. Published in: Human Development Research Paper (HDRP) Series , Vol. 03, No. 2009

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Abstract

We analyze a newly available dataset of migration policy decisions reported by governments to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs between 1976 and 2007. We find evidence indicating that most governments have policies aimed at either maintaining the status quo or at lowering the level of migration. We also document variation in migration policy over time and across countries of different regions and income levels. Finally, we examine patterns in various aspects of destination countries’ migration policies (policies towards family reunification, temporary vs. permanent migration, high-skilled migration). This analysis leads us to investigate the determinants of migration policy in a destination country. We develop a political economy framework in which voter attitudes represent a key component. We survey the literature on the determinants of public opinion towards immigrants and examine the link between these attitudes and governments’ policy decisions. While we find evidence broadly consistent with the median voter model, we conclude that this framework is not sufficient to understand actual migration policies. We discuss evidence which suggests that interest-groups dynamics may play a very important role.

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