I study the political sustainability of the welfare state in an environment where immigration is the main demographic force and where governments choose immigration policy. Voters anticipate their children's prospects of economic mobility and the future political consequences of today's policies. The skill distribution evolves due to intergenerational skill upgrading and immigration. I consider three regimes: permanent migration with citizenship granted by jus soli, permanent migration with jus sanguinis, and temporary migration. The main finding is that under permanent migration and jus soli there exists equilibria where redistribution is sustained indefinitely, despite constant skill upgrading. This is not the case in the other regimes. The crucial insight is that unskilled voters trade-off the lower wages from larger unskilled immigration with the increased political support for redistribution provided by the children of the current immigrants. These mechanisms are relevant for the ongoing debates over comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S, and elsewhere.
©2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston