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Voting Rights and Immigrant Incorporation: Evidence from Norway

  • Jeremy Ferwerda, Henning Finseraas and Johannes Bergh

How do political rights influence immigrant integration? This study demonstrates that the timing of voting rights extension plays a key role in fostering political incorporation. In Norway, non-citizens are eligible to vote in local elections after three years of residency. Drawing on individual-level registry data and a regression discontinuity design, the study leverages the exogenous timing of elections relative to the start of residency periods to identify the effect of early access to political institutions. It finds that immigrants who received early access were more likely to participate in subsequent electoral contests, with the strongest effects visible among immigrants from dictatorships and weak democracies. It also observes evidence consistent with spillover effects for other aspects of political engagement. These findings suggest that early access to voting rights influences subsequent trajectories of immigrant incorporation, in particular among immigrants from less developed states who may otherwise face high integration barriers.

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Dartmouth College, Department of Government (email:; Institute for Social Research, Norway (emails:, We would like to thank Dag Arne Christensen, Jens Hainmueller, Axel West Pedersen, Victoria Shineman, Øyvind Skorge, and participants at the 6th annual workshop on Comparative Approaches to Immigration, Ethnicity, and Integration, Yale, June 2016, the 6th annual general conference of the European Political Science Association in Brussels, June 2016, and the Political Behavior workshop in Toronto, November 2016 for useful comments and suggestions. Grant numbers 227072 (Research Council of Norway) and 236786 (Research Council of Norway) are acknowledged. Parts of the data employed in the analysis are drawn from Norwegian administrative registers and cannot be shared publicly for legal reasons. Researchers can gain access to the data by submitting a written application to Statistics Norway. More information is available at Data replication sets are available at and online appendices at

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