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Foreign Aid, Illegal Immigration, and Host Country Welfare

This paper analyzes the effect of foreign aid on illegal immigration and host country welfare using a general equilibrium model. We show that foreign aid may worsen the recipient nation’s terms of trade. Furthermore, it may also raise illegal immigration, if the terms of trade effect on immigration flows dominates the other effects identified in our analysis. Empirical analysis of the effect of foreign aid on illegal immigration to the United States broadly supports the predictions of our theoretical model. Foreign aid worsens the recipient’s terms of trade. While the terms of trade effect tends to reduce illegal immigration, countervailing effects are found to dominate. The paper contributes to the related literature by establishing that there are unintended consequences of foreign aid, and, while some of them are reminiscent of the classical transfer problem, others are new and arise due to endogenous illegal immigration flows.

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