Political Economy and Immigration

38 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2018 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019

See all articles by David Brady

David Brady

Stanford Graduate School of Business

John A. Ferejohn

NYU Law School

Aldo Paparo

Università LUISS Guido Carli

Date Written: June 25, 2018


In many advanced democracies the major political parties have been disrupted either by the rise of new (populist) parties or by hostile takeovers. There is no shortage of plausible explanations: the incomplete recovery from the Great Recession, the impacts of globalization on local economies, and the rise of immigration may each have important roles. In this paper we argue that immigration attitudes have had a powerful impact on the strategic environment of political parties and leaders. While immigration attitudes may be substantially anchored in broader social attitudes, short run economic forces have played an important role in the recent emergence of immigration as a political issue. We show, based on evidence from a comparative study conducted by YouGov in Spring of 2015, that immigration attitudes had, by that time, driven a wedge between the major parties – those that regularly play a role in government – and their supporters. This “immigration gap” opened up enormous space for new political movements to form, either inside existing parties or outside. We suggest that the potential for this kind of destabilization of existing parties or party systems has probably been present for years and that it is rooted both in effects of the long term movement toward global and regional markets, as well as in the effects of shorter term responses to the Great Recession and its prolonged aftermath.

Keywords: immigration, elections, political parties

Suggested Citation

Brady, David W. and Ferejohn, John A. and Paparo, Aldo, Political Economy and Immigration (June 25, 2018). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 19-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3295178 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3295178

David W. Brady

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

518 Memorial Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
(650) 723-9702 (Phone)
(650) 725-7979 (Fax)

John A. Ferejohn (Contact Author)

NYU Law School ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
2129986029 (Phone)

Aldo Paparo

Università LUISS Guido Carli ( email )


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