Matteo Gamalerio (University of Warwick)
Do electoral incentives affect immigration policy decisions? I study this question in the setting of Italian municipalities making decisions about the reception of refugees. The localized control of the reception policy (SPRAR), combined with the exogenous timing of policy decisions and staggered elections, enables me to study the effect of electoral incentives on the reception of refugees. Although municipalities receive substantial fiscal grants from the central government for hosting refugees, electoral incentives reduce the probability of opening a refugee reception centre by 24 per cent. The effect is driven by municipalities with higher shares of extreme-right voters, and migrants, and is persistent in the medium-long run. The results suggest two potential drawbacks of elections: first, the heterogeneity behind the negative effect may explain why is difficult to reach an equal redistribution of refugees across and within countries. Second, the fear of losing popular support induces municipal governments to give up fiscal grants that could benefit the local economy.