The Skill Composition of Immigrants and the Generosity of the Welfare State: Free vs. Policy-Controlled Migration

37 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2008  

Alon Cohen

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law; Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law

Assaf Razin

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Date Written: October 2008

Abstract

The paper analyzes the effect of the generosity of the welfare state on the skill composition of immigrants. We develop a parsimonious model in which the effect of an increase in the generosity (and taxes) of the welfare state on the skill composition of immigrants under free migration is negative. The reason is that welfare state benefits attract unskilled migrants because they contribute to tax revenues less than what they gain from benefits; and this generosity works to deter skilled immigrants, because they contribute in taxes more than in benefits. In sharp contrast, the effect of an increase in the generosity (and taxes) of the welfare state on the skill composition of migrants is positive if migration is controlled by policy. Being net contributors to the welfare state, skilled migrants can help finance a more generous welfare-state system; thus, they are preferred by the policy maker over unskilled migrants. We take the prediction of the model to cross-sectional data on source-host, OECD-EU country pairs in the year 2000. The identification strategy is to use the decomposition the source-host country pairs into two groups: one group, a "free migration" group, source-host country pairs within the EU, and another group, "policy-controlled migration" group, the pairs from non-EU countries into the EU. We find evidence in support of the predictions of the parsimonious model, that the generosity of the welfare state adversely affects the skill-composition of migrants under free migration; but it exerts a more positive effect under controlled migration, relative to the free migration regime.

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Alon and Razin, Assaf, The Skill Composition of Immigrants and the Generosity of the Welfare State: Free vs. Policy-Controlled Migration (October 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w14459. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1294134

Alon Cohen

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv 69978, IL
Israel

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Scopus, 91905
Israel

Assaf Razin (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 39040
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel
+972 3 640 7303 (Phone)
+972 3 640 9908 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.CESifo.de

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

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