Migration Working Group on ‘Immigration, Local Politics, and Local Redistributive Spending’

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from: 11:00
to: 12:30

The Migration Working Group will host the following presentations on the theme of ‘Immigration, Local Politics, and Local Redistributive Spending’:

‘Migration and redistributive spending: evidence from local authorities in England’ by Nikolaj Broberg, PhD Researcher (EUI-ECO) (with Lars Ludolph, PhD Researcher, LSE)

In this project, we analyse the quantitative effects of the migration wave between 2003 and 2010 on English local authority spending, with a focus on expenditure items linked to redistribution. We apply a shift-share estimation strategy based on historical settlements and find preliminary evidence that immigration had a marginal impact on local authority funding sources and a negative effect on total service provision per capita. Zooming into the different expenditure items, we find that local authorities experiencing relatively larger migration inflows did not see changes in their expenditure mix but rather saw spending declines in both social care and education services per capita. Potential mechanisms we identify are natives’ flight and changes in the preferences of the local authorities’ population. In an extension, we find no preliminary evidence that post-2004 EU migration drives these effects. This group indeed had distinct migration patterns and socio-economic characteristics from other migrants. Applying a difference-in-difference strategy, we find that large inflows from this group of migrants also caused reductions in social care expenditure per capita. However, we find distinct patterns in election outcomes and the spending mix of local authorities suggesting changes induced by this particular group were rather driven by changes in the local authorities’ demographic characteristics followed by an institutional reaction.


‘Elite influence on receptiveness to refugee hosting’ by Dr. Annabelle Wittels, Max Weber Fellow (EUI-SPS) and Francesco Colombo, PhD Researcher (EUI-SPS)

Local politics, in theory, provide citizens with more direct control over matters that affect their daily lives. Local politics can be a driver of responsiveness and thus a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. It however remains unclear to what extent local leaders are responsive to local demands as opposed to party ideology. This is first and foremost a problem of causal identification as it is difficult to disentangle whether local public opinion follows elite queues or whether local elites respond to them. Further, very localised public opinion is usually unavailable. If hypotheses on political independence are true, we should observe policy choices of independent local governments that are distinct from those that have a national affiliation and are thus bound to respond to more national-level concerns. We circumvent this problem using the choice of municipal governments in Italy to support applications to host asylum seekers in their communities. Using a regression discontinuity design on newly collected data on local tenders from 2003-2020 and combining it with local election data, we estimate the effect of political independence on supporting pro-migration policies at a local level. To further disentangle effects of ideology from those of political independence, we compare right-wing independent local governments with nationally affiliated right-wing parties. We discuss the implications of these findings for political independence and the role of ideology on policy responsiveness and the quality of democracy.


Lukas Schmid (PhD Researcher, EUI)

Dr. Mauro Lanati (Research Fellow, MPC)
Dr. Tiziana Caponio (Marie Curie Fellow, MPC)

The event will take place via Zoom. If you wish to attend the session, please send an email to MigrationWorkingGroup@eui.eu by Monday 18 January.

The Zoom link will be shared on the morning of the event.


Speaker Biographies

Nikolaj Broberg is a PhD candidate at the Economics department of the European University Institute, interested in empirical political economy, migration, and public economics. For his doctoral thesis, his first chapter focuses on the impact of campaign finance regulation on democratic turnover while his second chapter studies the impact of mayoral term limits on local level redistribution and corruption. Finally, Nikolaj’s third chapter will concentrate on the impact of migration on U.K. local level redistribution. He holds a BSc and a MSc in Economics from University College London and the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics respectively and a Masters in International Relations from Sciences Po Paris.

Dr. Annabelle Wittels is a second-year Max Weber Fellow (postdoctoral researcher) at the SPS department at the European University Institute. Her work centres on the role of human behaviour in public policy and public administration – how decisions and social relations shape the choice, design and implementation of public policy. Annabelle specialises on causal inference; she uses both quasi-experimental and experimental methods. Throughout her career, she retained tight links to the policy world, providing evaluation and advisory services to organisations such as The World Bank, The Behavioural Insights Team, BBC Media Action and DfID.

Francesco Colombo is a PhD researcher at the SPS department at the European University Institute, under the supervision of Prof. Elias Dinas. His thesis focuses on political behaviour of voters and parties, the role of trust and social capital and voters’ preferences for social policy. Francesco also has a strong interest in quantitative methods, including observational and experimental methods.