17/11/2021 – UNU-MERIT/MGSoG Migration Semiar “Immigration and Welfare State Development in the Long Run”

Immigration and Welfare State Development in the Long Run

Dr. Alexandre Afonso, Leiden University

The relationship between immigration and the welfare state has been extensively studied in the political economy literature, looking notably at how immigration affects support for welfare, or how levels of immigration can impact welfare spending. A common argument has been that high levels of immigration and/or ethnic heterogeneity potentially undermine welfare efforts by affecting the feeling of solidarity required for large-scale redistribution. Economist Alberto Alesina and colleagues notably use this idea to argue that differences in immigration levels and ethnic heterogeneity are one of the factors explaining the large differences in welfare efforts between Europe and the United States. However, while these arguments relate to processes typically taking place over long periods of time, and should be especially important in the formative periods of welfare states, existing empirical analyses typically focus on recent decades. In this paper, I take a much longer perspective by looking at the relationship between immigration and welfare state development from the late 19th century onwards using panel regressions. To do this, I draw on a newly created dataset of immigrant shares in the long term using various historical statistical sources (censuses; statistical yearbooks) and long-term data on welfare spending. This approach makes it possible to uncover the changing dynamics of the interaction of immigration and welfare efforts across historical periods.

About the speaker

Alexandre Afonso is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Administration at Leiden University. His research interests are in comparative political economy, welfare state research, immigration, and the governance of labour markets. He has published in a number of academic journals such as Comparative Political Studies, Journal of European Public Policy, Governance, and the European Journal of Political Research. He is currently writing a book under contract with Oxford University Press on the relationship between immigration control and welfare state development.

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