Via Marginal Revolution, this paper from David Brady and Ryan Finnigan explores the link between immigration and support for welfare and social policy. Generally they find there is very little to link higher immigration to reduced support for social policy, “Ultimately, this study demonstrates that factors other than immigration are far more important for public support of social policy.”
At the end of the paper, there is an important reminder about how European migration has transformed in less than a generation. The following graphs show the percentage of overseas born for 1995 and 2005 and the percentage of net overseas migration for 1995 and 2005:
Graph A: In the decade between 1995 and 2005, Spain went from about 3 per cent foreign born to over 10 per cent. Ireland from 7 per cent to over 15 per cent. Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the UK all show significant increases.
This stems from large inflows of migrants, as seen in graph B. The inflow of people for Spain and Ireland are mind-boggling large for countries with no history of immigration. France and Portugal also show these large inflows.
While other countries, like Australia and Canada, also had large inflows of migrants in this decade, this did not rapidly increase the percentage of overseas born because of the established populations of migrants already living in these countries.
This is critical context when looking at the anti-migration movement which has emerged in the wake of the global financial crisis. Many of these countries are historically emigration nations. Only recently have they experienced mass immigration, as economic growth generated massive demand for labour.
The economic and social institutions that support immigration in Canada, Australia and New Zealand simply don’t exist in many of these countries. Political and social division has been the result to date.