Journal of Economics

, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 95-144

First online:

Xenophobia and the Size of the Public Sector in France: A Politico-economic Analysis

  • John E. RoemerAffiliated withDepartments of Political Science and Economics, Yale University Email author 
  • , Karine Van der StraetenAffiliated withCNRS & Ecole Polytechnique

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Anti-immigrant feeling (xenophobia) among voters was a key factor in the second-place victory of Jean Le Pen's National Front Party in the 2002 French national election. Here, we study the effect of anti-immigrant sentiment on the equilibrium position of political parties on the economic issue, which we take to be the size of the public sector. We model political competition among three parties (Left, Right, and Extreme Right) on a two-dimensional policy space (public sector size, immigration issue) using the PUNE model. We calibrate the model to French data for the election years 1988 and 2002, and show that politics have changed significantly over this period, from being centered primarily on economic issues, to non-economic issues such as immigration and security/law-and-order. We estimate that in 2002, the effect of voter xenophobia was to reduce the voters' choice of public-sector size between 11% and 28% of one standard deviation of the population's distribution of public-sector size ideal points, from what it would have been, absent xenophobia.


xenophobia racism distribution political equilibrium public sector

JEL Classification

D3 D72