Border controls, benefits, and rights: how states shape migration patterns in a world of multiple origins and destinations

Mariola Pytlikova, VSB-Technical University of Ostrava
Alicia Adsera, Princeton University
John Palmer, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

The literature on the determinants of migration flows highlights different pull and push factors to explain the direction and strength of those flows. Here we analyze whether migrants are more likely to choose destinations in which they will have greater economic, social and political rights (and receive more generous benefits) as some of the recent literature on the “welfare magnet” hypothesis posits. We estimate a gravity type model of migration flows using: (1) annual data on international migration flows and foreign population stocks in 30 OECD countries from 223 countries of origin for the period 1980-2010; (2) indices of social, economic, and political rights for migrants arriving to OECD countries from every source country for the years 1965-2009; (3) data from the OECD Social Expenditure Database SOCX 1980-2010 and (4) indices on the restrictiveness of immigration policy. Social expenditures are relevant for individuals’ migration choices only as long as they are entitled to receive them. The focus of our paper is precisely to understand the nuanced relationship between, on one hand, migration flows, and on the other hand, the rights of immigrants(depending on their countries of origin) and the generosity of different benefits at destination (either as share of GDP or in per capita terms). Eligibility criteria should be taken into account when measuring whether welfare expenditure is indeed a pull factor for immigrants. Finally to account for the potential endogenous relation of immigrant rights laws and policies, as well as the generosity of the welfare state, we use both GMM and IV estimators to check for robustness of our results.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 73: Immigration and the welfare state