The Corner

Immigration

The ‘Welfare Magnet’ for Immigrants

That term refers to a controversial concept — and a salient one, given the Trump administration’s efforts to make it harder for immigrants to use welfare in the U.S. A new study finds that there’s something to it: Immigrants were more likely to come to Denmark when they could get more welfare there.

From the abstract:

We study the effects of welfare generosity on international migration using a series of large changes in welfare benefits for immigrants in Denmark. The first change, implemented in 2002, lowered benefits for immigrants from outside the EU by about 50%, with no changes for natives or immigrants from inside the EU. The policy was later repealed and re-introduced. The differential treatment of immigrants from inside and outside the EU, and of different types of non-EU immigrants [because the policy applied to asylum and family immigrants but not work and study ones], allows for a quasi-experimental research design. We find sizeable effects: the benefit reduction reduced the net flow of immigrants by about 5,000 people per year, or 3.7 percent of the stock of treated immigrants, and the subsequent repeal of the policy reversed the effect almost exactly.

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