Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Migration und Sozialstaat

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Is there a “welfare state magnet effect”?


A more comprehensive answer to the question of the push and pull factors of migration movements is needed to make future migration flows more predictable and thus increase planning certainty, for example with regard to the future social welfare contribution base and the effects of different levels of migrants' qualifications (cf. Razin & Wahba 2011).

There are contradictory results in the literature regarding the ‘magnetic effects’ of social welfare systems (Nannestad 2007). While Borjas (1999) reports a clear pull effect for low-skilled migrants, Giulietti et al. (2013) find no or minimal pull effects. Gravity models traditionally used for prediction (Anderson 2011) are based on the simplistic assumption that bilateral flows are not affected by institutional changes either in the countries of origin or countries of destination (such as changes in migration or welfare state regimes).

Exponential Random Graph Models, however, allow for explicit modeling of the fact that migratory flows have both effects on the recipient as well as the sending countries, and that migration flows are not independent of migration between other countries in the global migration system (Windzio 2018).

However, there is still a lack in ERGM analysis involving migration and welfare state regimes, as well as the different composition of migration flows (low vs. high quality). Therefore, we are planning extensive analyses with the use of advanced gravitational models which would include these factors, where the OECD countries are to be considered as the main destination countries.


Anderson, J. E. (2011). The gravity model. Annu. Rev. Econ., 3(1), 133-160.
Borjas, G. J. (1999). Immigration and welfare magnets. Journal of Labor Economics, 17(4), 607-637.
Giulietti, Guzi, C.M., Kahanec, M., and Zimmermann, K.F. (2013).
Unemployment benefits and immigration: evidence from the EU. International Journal of Manpower, 34(1), 24-38.
Nannestad, P. (2007). Immigration and welfare states: A survey of 15 years of research.
European Journal of Political Economy, 23(2), 512-532.
Razin, A., and Wahba, J. (2011). Free vs. controlled migration: bilateral country study (No. w16831). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Windzio, M. (2018). The network of global migration 1990–2013: Using ERGMs to test theories of migration between countries. Social Networks, 53, 20-29.