Skip to main content Accessibility help

Immigration and Support for Social Policy: An Experimental Comparison of Universal and Means-Tested Programs

  • Jordi Muñoz and Sergi Pardos-Prado


A growing body of research suggests that immigration undermines native support for the welfare state. However, the mechanisms behind this relationship and the possible moderating effects of institutions remain inconclusive. In this study, we identify via survey experiments how means-tested programs and targeted spending exacerbate the negative effect of immigration on public support for redistribution. Our findings suggest that different institutional settings can attach different weights to identity considerations across the whole socio-economic spectrum. We conclude by discussing the implications of our results for previous contradictory findings in the literature, and for the effectiveness of welfare policies in times of increasing ethnic diversity.



Hide All

Jordi Muñoz, Ramón y Cajal Fellow, Department of Political Science and Institutions and Political Economy Research Group, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 684, 08034, Barcelona, Spain ( Sergi Pardos-Prado, Associate Professor and Official Fellow in Politics, Merton College, University of Oxford, OX1 4JD, Oxford, UK ( To view supplementary material for this article, please visit



Hide All
Alesina, Alberto, and Glaeser, Edward. 2004. Fighting Poverty in the U.S. and in Europe: A World of Difference. New York: Oxford University Press.
Alesina, Alberto, Glaeser, Edward, and Sacerdote, Bruno. 2001. ‘Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European Style Welfare State?’. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 32:187277.
Alesina, Alberto, and La Ferrara, Eliana. 2005. ‘Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities’. Journal of Public Economics 89:897931.
Alesina, Alberto, Baqir, Reza, and Easterly, William. 1999. ‘Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions’. Quarterly Journal of Economics 114(4):12431284.
Baldwin, Kate, and Huber, John D.. 2010. ‘Economic Versus Cultural Differences: Forms of Immigration and Public Goods Provision’. American Political Science Review 104(4):644662.
Banerjee, Abhijit, Iyer, Lakshmi, and Somanathan, Rohini. 2005. ‘History, Social Divisions, and Public Goods in Rural India’. Journal of the European Economic Association 3(2–3):639647.
Banting, Keith, and Kymlicka, Will. 2006. Multiculturalism and the Welfare State: Recognition and Redistribution in Contemporary Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Banting, Keith G. 2005. ‘The Multicultural Welfare State: International Experience and North American Narratives’. Social Policy and Administration 39(2):98115.
Cavaillé, Charlotte, and Trump, Kris-Stella. 2015. ‘The Two Facets of Social Policy Preferences’. The Journal of Politics 77(1):146160.
Chandra, Kanchan. 2001. ‘Cumulative Findings in the Study of Ethnic Politics’. APSA-CP 12:711.
Charness, Gary, and Rabin, Matthew. 2002. ‘Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests’. Quarterly Journal of Economics 117(3):817869.
Cho, Wonbin. 2010. ‘Citizens’ Perceptions of Government Responsiveness in Africa: Do Electoral Systems and Immigration Matter?’. Comparative Political Studies 43(12):16501674.
Collier, Paul. 2013. Exodus. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Crepaz, Markus. 2006. ‘If You Are My Brother, I May Give You a Dime! Public Opinion on Multiculturalism, Trust, and the Welfare State’. In Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka (eds), Multiculturalism and the Welfare State: Recognition and Redistribution in Contemporary Democracies, 92117. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Crepaz, Markus. 2008. Trust Beyond Borders: Immigration, the Welfare State, and Identity in Modern Societies. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
Crepaz, Markus, and Damron, Regan. 2009. ‘Constructing Tolerance: How the Welfare State Shapes Attitudes About Immigrants’. Comparative Political Studies 42:437463.
Dahlberg, Matz, Edmark, Karin, and Lundqvist, Heléne. 2012. ‘Ethnic Diversity and Preferences for Redistribution’. Journal of Political Economy 120(1):4176.
Dimick, Matthew, Rueda, David, and Stegmueller, Daniel. 2016. ‘The Altruistic Rich? Inequality and Other-Regarding Preferences for Redistribution in the US’. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 11(4):385439.
Eger, Maureen A. 2010. ‘Even in Sweden: The Effect of Immigration on Support for Welfare State Spending’. European Sociological Review 26(2):203217.
Evans, Geoffrey. 2006. ‘Does Multiculturalism Reduce Support for Welfare Provision? A Case Study of British Social Attitudes’. In Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka ((eds)), Multiculturalism and the Welfare State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fearon, James D. 2003. ‘Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country’. Journal of Economic Growth 8(2):195222.
Fehr, Ernst, and Gachter, Simon. 2000. ‘Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments’. American Economic Review 90(4):980994.
Fellowes, Matthew C., and Rowe, Gretchen. 2004. ‘Politics and the New American Welfare States’. American Journal of Political Science 48(2):362373.
Finseraas, Henning. 2008. ‘Immigration and Preferences for Redistribution: An Empirical Analysis of European Survey Data’. Comparative European Politics 6(4):407431.
Finseraas, Henning. 2009. ‘Income Inequality and Demand for Redistribution: A Multilevel Analysis of European Public Opinion’. Scandinavian Political Studies 32(1):94119.
Ford, Robert. 2006. ‘Prejudice and White Majority Welfare Attitudes in the UK’. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 16(2):141156.
Gerdes, Christer. 2011. ‘The Impact of Immigration on the Size of Government: Empirical Evidence from Danish Municipalities’. Scandinavian Journal of Economics 113:7492.
Gilens, Martin. 1995. ‘Racial Attitudes and Opposition to Welfare’. Journal of Politics 57(4):9941014.
Gilens, Martin. 1996. ‘“Race Coding” and White Opposition to Welfare’. American Political Science Review 90(3):593604.
Gilens, Martin. 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Anti-Poverty Policy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Habyarimana, James, Humphreys, Macartan, and Posner, Daniel. 2009. Coethnicity: Diversity and the Dilemmas of Collective Action. New York: The Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust.
Hainmueller, Jens, and Hiscox, Michael J.. 2007. ‘Educated Preferences: Explaining Attitudes Towards Immigration in Europe’. International Organizations 61:399442.
Hopkins, Daniel J. 2009. ‘The Diversity Discount: When Increasing Ethnic and Racial Diversity Prevents Tax Increases’. The Journal of Politics 71(1):160177.
Jofre-Monseny, Jordi, Sorribas-Navarro, Pilar, and Vázquez-Grenno, Javier. 2016. ‘Immigration and Local Spending in Social Services: Evidence from a Massive Immigration Wave’. International Tax and Public Finance 23:10041029.
Larsen, Christian Albrekt. 2008. ‘The Institutional Logic of Welfare Attitudes: How Welfare Regimes Influence Public Support’. Comparative Political Studies 41(2):145168.
Larsen, Christian Albrekt. 2011. ‘Immigration and Public Support for Welfare: Is the American Experience Replicated in Britain, Sweden and Denmark?’. Scandinavian Political Studies 34:332353.
Lieberman, Evan S., and McClendon, Gwyneth H.. 2013. ‘The Ethnicity-Policy Preference Link in Sub-Saharan Africa’. Comparative Political Studies 46(5):574602.
Lind, Jo Thori. 2007. ‘Fractionalization and the Size of Government’. Journal of Public Economics 91:5176.
Lindert, Peter H. 1996. ‘What Limits Social Spending?’. Explorations in Economic History 33:134.
Lupu, Noam, and Pontusson, Jonas. 2011. ‘The Structure of Inequality and the Politics of Redistribution’. American Political Science Review 105(2):316336.
Luttmer, Erzo F. P. 2001. ‘Group Loyalty and the Taste for Redistribution’. Journal of Political Economy 109(3):500528.
Manza, Jeff, and Brooks, Clem. 1999. Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignments and U.S. Party Coalitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mau, Steffen, and Burkhardt, Christoph. 2009. ‘Migration and Welfare State Solidarity in Western Europe’. Journal of European Social Policy 19:213229.
Meltzer, Allan H., and Richard, Scott F.. 1981. ‘A Rational Theory of the Size of Government’. Journal of Political Economy 89:914927.
Moene, Karl Ove, and Wallerstein, Michael. 2001. ‘Inequality, Social Insurance and Redistribution’. American Political Science Review 95(4):859874.
Mutz, Diana. 2011. Population-Based Survey Experiments. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Pontusson, Jonas, and Rueda, David. 2010. ‘The Politics of Inequality: Voter Mobilization and Left Parties in Advanced Industrial States’. Comparative Political Studies 43(6):675705.
Posner, Daniel N. 2005. Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Putnam, Robert D. 2007. ‘“E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-First Century”. The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture’. Scandinavian Political Studies 30(2):137174.
Ribar, David C., and Wilhelm, Mark O.. 1999. ‘The Demand for Welfare Generosity’. The Review of Economics and Statistics 81:96108.
Romer, Thomas. 1975. ‘Individual Welfare, Majority Voting, and the Properties of a Linear Income Tax’. Journal of Public Economics 14:163185.
Rueda, avid. 2014. Food Comes First, Then Morals? Redistribution Preferences, Altruism, and Group Heterogeneity in Western Europe. Warwick: Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy.
Rueda, David, and Stegmueller, Daniel. 2016. ‘The Externalities of Inequality: Fear of Crime and Preferences for Redistribution in Western Europe’. American Journal of Political Science 60(2):472489.
Rugh, Jacob S., and Trounstine, Jessica. 2011. ‘The Provision of Local Public Goods in Diverse Communities: Analyzing Municipal Bond Elections’. The Journal of Politics 73(4):10381050.
Schmidt, Alexander W., and Spies, Dennis C.. 2014. ‘Do Parties “Playing the Race Card” Undermine Natives’ Support for Redistribution? Evidence from Europe’. Comparative Political Studies 47:519549.
Senik, Claudia, Stichnoth, Holger, and Van der Straeten, Karine. 2008. ‘Immigration and Natives’ Attitudes Towards the Welfare State: Evidence from the European Social Survey’. Social Indicators Research 91:345370.
Shayo, Moses. 2009. ‘A Model of Social Identity With an Application to Political Economy: Nation, Class, and Redistribution’. American Political Science Review 103(2):147174.
Sniderman, Paul M., and Hagendoorn, Louk. 2007. When Ways of Life Collide: Multiculturalism and its Discontents in the Netherlands. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Soroka, Stuart N., Johnston, Richard, and Banting, Keith. 2004. ‘Ethnicity, Trust and the Welfare State’. In P. Van Parijs ((ed.)), Cultural Diversity Versus Economic Solidarity, 3357. Brussels: De Boeck.
Stichnoth, Holger. 2012. ‘Does Immigration Weaken Natives’ Support for the Unemployed? Evidence From Germany’. Public Choice 151:631654.
Tajfel, Henri. 1981. Human Groups and Social Categories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tavits, Margit, and Potter, Joshua D.. 2015. ‘The Effect of Inequality and Social Identity on Party Strategies’. American Journal of Political Science 59(3):744758.
Van Oorschot, Wim. 2006. ‘Making the Difference in Social Europe: Deservingness Perceptions Among Citizens of European Welfare States’. Journal of European Social Policy 16:2342.
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Muñoz and Pardos-Prado Dataset

Supplementary materials

Muñoz and Pardos-Prado supplementary material

 Word (95 KB)
95 KB

Immigration and Support for Social Policy: An Experimental Comparison of Universal and Means-Tested Programs

  • Jordi Muñoz and Sergi Pardos-Prado


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed