Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2019:5: Immigration and Right-Wing Populism: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Adrian Mehic ()
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Adrian Mehic: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: Between the 2014 and 2018 Swedish parliamentary elections, the vote share of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats increased significantly. To evaluate the possibility of a causal link between immigration and the right-wing populist vote, this paper uses data from a nationwide policy experiment, under which refugees are allocated randomly to every municipality in the country, creating exogenous variation in the number of refugees between municipalities. Overall, I find a positive and significant impact of immigration on the anti-immigration vote. In areas with strong anti-immigration sentiments during the 1990s refugee wave, the effect is magnified significantly. However, when considering immigration of a particular refugee group dominated by young men, the relationship is considerably weaker. I show that this is because immigration of young men has a balancing effect on the right-wing populist vote among immigration-friendly voter groups.

Keywords: immigration; right-wing populism; natural experiment

JEL-codes: D72; J15; P16

53 pages, March 19, 2019

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