Public Choice

, Volume 160, Issue 3–4, pp 391–409 | Cite as

Immigration, redistribution, and universal suffrage

  • Raul Magni-Berton


The effect of immigration on redistribution has been widely debated. This paper contributes to this debate by testing two explanations, which are that (i) immigration tends to reduce redistribution due to people’s higher levels of xenophobia, and that (ii) immigration affects redistribution because immigrants do not have the right to vote. Since the demand for redistribution depends on the (expected) gap between median voter income and mean income, immigrants affect the demand for redistribution because, as non-citizens, they do not change the median voter’s income, but, as economic stakeholders, they do affect the mean income. Four empirical consequences of (i) and (ii) are tested at the individual level. Evidence from the European Values Survey in 45 countries confirms (ii), showing that immigrants’ expected competitiveness on the labor market affects preferences for redistribution and that it is amplified when the perceived number of immigrants is high. In contrast, (i) is globally rejected since the impact of the citizens’ declared level of solidarity with immigrants tends to be weak and depends on the type of measurement or specification used.


Immigration Redistribution Universal suffrage Xenophobia Median voter Public opinion 



The author would like to thank André Blais and the other members of the Canada Research Chair in Electoral Studies, Abel François, Anna Jeannesson, and Robert Kowalenko for their helpful comments. Finally, I would like to stress the excellent comments from two anonymous reviewers who considerably improved this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science Po Grenoble, PACTE, Department of Political ScienceGrenoble UniversityGrenobleFrance

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