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The fiscal cost of refugee immigration: the example of Sweden

Journal article
Authors Joakim Ruist
Published in Population and Development Review
Volume 41
Issue 4
Pages 567-581
ISSN 0098-7921
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Economics
Pages 567-581
Language en
Keywords immigration; public finances; refugees
Subject categories Economics


The world currently has more refugees and internally displaced persons than it has had since World War II. Yet the readiness of many wealthy countries to provide asylum to these refugees is waning, and a major reason for this is the fiscal burden that would result from larger refugee intakes. To evaluate the size of this fiscal burden, this study estimates the net fiscal redistribution to the total refugee population in Sweden, the country with the largest per capita refugee immigration rate in the Western world since the early 1980s. The total redistribution in 2007 corresponds to 1.0 percent of Swedish GDP in that year. Four-fifths of the redistribution is due to lower public per capita revenues from refugees compared with the total population, and one-fifth to higher per capita public costs.

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