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CEP discussion paper

The political economy of trade and migration: evidence from the US Congress


We systematically examine the drivers of U.S. congressmen's votes on trade and migration reforms since the 1970's. Standard trade theory suggests that reforms that lower barriers to goods and migrants should have similar distributional effects, hurting low-skilled U.S. workers while benefiting high-skilled workers. In line with this prediction, we find that House members representing more skilled-labor abundant districts are more likely to support both trade and migration liberalization. Still, important differences exist: Democrats favor trade reforms less than Republicans, while the opposite is true for immigration reforms; welfare state considerations and network effects shape support for immigration, but not for trade.


Paola Conconi, Giovanni Facchini, Max F. Steinhardt and Maurizio Zanardi

8 August 2018     Paper Number CEPDP1564

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Trade programme.