The Effects of Immigration on Welfare Across the EU: Do Subjective Evaluations Align with Estimations?

The Effects of Immigration on Welfare Across the EU: Do Subjective Evaluations Align with Estimations?

January 4, 2019

Working Paper

Negative discourse surrounding immigration often focuses on migrants’ access to, and use of, welfare state benefits. Anti-immigration rhetoric alleges that access to such benefits, including health care, unemployment insurance, or housing assistance, acts as a ‘pull factor’, increasing immigration. There is little evidence to support these kinds of claims, as many studies have shown that migrants contribute at least as much to public balance sheets as they receive in benefits. Nonetheless, such beliefs continue to impact on attitudes toward migration.

This working paper from Work Package 10 examines the determinants of citizens’ perceptions of the impact of immigration on public finances. Bringing together cross-national surveys and the latest country-level estimates of fiscal effects produced by the REMINDER project, the authors assess the extent to which having been born in the country (identity considerations), or having sufficiently contributed towards costs (economic considerations), acts as the primary determinant of a person’s evaluation of the fiscal impact of immigration.

The results show that EU citizens’ evaluations of the impacts of immigration on welfare are partly responsive to estimates of fiscal exposure from immigration in their country. However, evaluations depend less on the extent of immigrants’ contributions towards the costs of what they receive, and more on the identity of the recipient. This suggests that identity considerations appear to underlie people’s perceptions of impacts more than economic considerations.

The authors also find that perceptions of burdens respond similarly to fiscal exposure from intra-EU and non-EU immigration, providing further evidence that citizens’ views do not make particular exceptions for intra-EU immigrants.

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