Forced Migration and Local Public Policies: Evidence from Post-War West Germany


We study the effect of forced migration on public policy setting in the migrant-receiving country. After World War~II, eight million expelled Germans arrived in West Germany within five years. We use regional variation in the population share of forced migrants across West German cities to estimate the effect of this inflow on cities’ taxation and spending decisions. To identify a causal effect, we pursue an instrumental variable strategy that leverages push factors of the expulsions while being orthogonal to local conditions in the destination regions. Our results show that cities with high inflows of forced migrants increased spending on welfare and education, decreased spending on infrastructure, raised local taxes, and incurred more debt. Part of these effects can be attributed to shifts in political preferences. The migrants held voting rights upon arrival and supported parties that explicitly catered to their interests and needs.

Journal of the European Economic Association, conditionally accepted
Benjamin Elsner
Benjamin Elsner

My research interests are migration, human capital, and environmental economics matter.