Country-Specific Investments and the Rights of Non-Citizens

By Adam Chilton & Eric Posner

In a 2007 article, Adam Cox and Eric Posner developed a “Second Order” theory of immigration law that offered predictions about when countries are likely to provide noncitizens with strong legal protections from removal. They argued that states benefit when migrants make “country-specific” investments, but that migrants are only willing to make those investments when they are afforded strong legal protections that would secure their place in the host country. One implication of this theory was that because countries with less common national languages require greater country-specific investments from migrants, those countries are likely to provide migrants with strong legal protections. In this short paper, we empirically test that hypothesis. Consistent with the theory, we find that countries with less common national languages are more likely to provide a right to asylum in their constitution or sign bilateral labor agreements.

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