Published: June 3, 2021

Exchange rates and immigration policy

By: Adrian Shin


What explains cross-national and temporal variations in migrant rights? This article argues that policymakers implement more exclusionary or inclusive policies toward migrants in response to exchange-rate fluctuations. Since exchange rates affect the real value of remittances, exchange-rate depreciation of the host state’s currency makes migration less valuable for existing and potential migrants, while exchange-rate appreciation increases the degree of migrant pressure on the host state by doing the opposite. This well-documented relationship between exchange rate valuation and migration movements affects how host country governments craft immigration policy. Under exchange-rate depreciation, policymakers will implement more inclusive policies to deter the “exit” of migrants and maintain a stable supply of labor. Under exchange-rate appreciation, increased migration pressures heighten public anxiety over immigration in the host country, in turn causing policymakers to restrict further immigration by implementing more exclusionary policies. Consistent with the argument, the empirical results show that the purchasing-power-parity (PPP) currency values of migrants’ home countries are positively correlated with more pro-migrant policies in host countries.

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