Vilfredo Pareto Research Seminar
Benjamin Elsner

Poor Voters, Taxation and the Size of the Welfare State

Benjamin Elsner, Assistant Professor at University College Dublin (UCD)
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Webinar streamed via Zoom

The Vilfredo Pareto Research Seminar is the Economics department's weekly seminar, featuring external speakers in all areas of economics.

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As part of the Vilfredo Pareto Research Seminar series, the International Economics Department at the Graduate Institute is pleased to invite you to a public talk given by Benjamin Elsner, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University College Dublin (UCD).

He will present his paper Poor Voters, Taxation and the Size of the Welfare State, coauthored with Arnaud Chevalier, Andreas Lichter and Nico Pestel.

Abstract: This paper studies the effect of a large poverty shock on local taxation and spending. We exploit the sudden arrival of eight million forced migrants in West Germany after World War II. The migrants were poorer than the local population, eligible for social welfare and had full voting rights. We find that high-inflow cities responded with greater redistribution: they selectively raised local taxes and shifted spending from infrastructure to welfare. We show that this policy shift can be partly explained by the forced migrants’ political involvement and their voting behavior. We further document the persistence of these effects into the next generation. Even 50 years after the shock, people in high-inflow cities have stronger preferences for redistribution. These findings are consistent with standard political economy models of the welfare state.


Professor Benjamin Elsner is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA) in Bonn/Germany, the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy and the Centre for Research & Analysis of Migration at UCL. His research focuses on the causes and consequences of migration, and the determinants of human capital, such as education and environmental factors.