Migrant Selection and the Welfare State: Heterogeneous Effects of Social and Economic Rights on Migrant Flows By Gender and Education Level

Alicia Adsera, Princeton University
John Palmer, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Mariola Pytlikova, CERGE

We analyze the role of destination states in selecting migrants by gender and

skill through the economic and social rights offered to them. In particular, we explore

whether the effect of destination state labor-market rights, welfare rights, and welfare

spending varies by gender and education level. We also explore the differential effects

of co-national social networks to better understand the role of cumulative causation in the

selection process. We estimate a multilevel gravity-type model using data on the gender

and education composition of migrant flows from 159 states around the world to 19 OECD

states from the brain-data from IAB. We combine this with data on social expenditures, a set of indexes of immigrants’

social and economic rights that vary by time, origin, and destination, and data on key

economic indicators. We employ time lags to account for the potential endogenous relationships

between migrant flows and destination-state policies and spending levels. We

find that the effects of destination state economic and social rights and welfare spending

appear to be similar for men and women but to differ in interesting ways across education

level. Non-contributory welfare rights appear to attract migrants of all genders and education

levels, with the effects largest for those with middle-level education, but welfare

spending attracts only men with low education—and only a very small amount. Private sector

employment rights attract only those with high education and have no notable effect

on the other groups. Finally, larger co-national population in the destination state attracts

all groups, with the effect larger for those with low and medium education than for those

with high education


Presented in Session 1078: International Migration and Migrant Populations