Political Science Now

Theme Panel: The Political Economy of Immigration, Redistribution, and Inequality

The Political Economy of Immigration, Redistribution, and Inequality

Sat, September 5, 4:15 to 6:00pm, Hilton, Continental Ballroom 5

Session Description

This panel examines individual and party preferences towards immigration and redistribution in advanced industrial societies. In recent decades, these societies have become more diverse due to changes in the size and composition of their immigrant populations. Because immigration has distributional and cultural consequences, this has transformed the nature of political conflict. The importance of the immigration issue has been recognized by voters, policy makers, and scholars alike.

The Political Economy literature has explored the interrelations between redistribution and immigration. Many studies have examined if ethnic heterogeneity affects the size of the welfare state or individual support for redistribution. Whether the effects are positive, negative, or null is still the subject of intense debate. This literature, however, suffers from a number of limitations. It often assumes that material self-interest influences individual preferences and, hence, vote choice. Immigration, however, has become one of the most salient issues in advanced industrial societies. Cultural concerns, in particular, seem to matter greatly for many voters. Past research also often assumes that party positions are relatively fixed. Very little, however, is known about the positions of political parties on immigration. Moreover, immigration and redistribution create dilemmas for mainstream parties which may be solved differently across countries.