The Political Externalities of Immigration: Two Graphs to Ponder
By Bryan Caplan
Lately I’ve been delving more deeply into the empirical evidence on the political externalities of immigration. Two striking graphs from Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote’s “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-Style Welfare State?” (BPEA 2001):
1. Internationally, racially diverse societies have much smaller welfare states, controlling for GDP per capita, regional dummies, and more. The bivariate relationship:
AGS’s story is precisely the one I’ve been pushing: Diversity undermines solidarity. People don’t mind paying high taxes to support people “like them.” But free money for “the other” leads to resentment and political pushback. If you’re a social democrat, this implies a tragic trade-off between social justice for natives and social justice for potential immigrants. But if you’re a libertarian, the opposite is true. The welfare state doesn’t make open borders impossible. It’s open borders that makes the eventual abolition of the welfare state imaginable.