Inclusion and Public Policy: Evidence from Sweden’s Introduction of Noncitizen Suffrage


  • I wish to thank participants in seminars at the Department of Economics and the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University, and Ludvig Beckman, John R. Bowman, Matz Dahlberg, Carl Dahlström, Per-Anders Edin, Olle Folke, Christer Gerdes, Per-Pettersson Lidbom, Karl-Oskar Lindgren, Björn Öckert, Jan Teorell, Rick K. Wilson at the American Journal of Political Science, and the anonymous reviewers for comments. Per Pettersson-Lidbom and Björn Tyrefors-Hinnerich graciously provided some of the data used. This research was financially supported by the Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation and the Uppsala Center for Labor Studies (UCLS).

Kâre Vernby is a Researcher in the Department of Government, Uppsala University, Box 514, 75120 Uppsala, Sweden (


The largest disenfranchised group in modern democracies is international migrants who lack citizenship of their country of residence. Despite that noncitizen suffrage has been introduced in some countries and has been the subject of vigorous public debate in many others, there have been no systematic attempts to investigate its policy consequences. Drawing on standard models of political competition, I argue that there will be a selection bias inherent in estimating the impact of noncitizen suffrage on public policy and analyze data that are uniquely suitable to deal with this methodological problem, namely data on exogenous changes in the composition of the electorates of Swedish municipalities generated by the introduction of noncitizen suffrage. According to the results, the effect of enfranchising noncitizens on public policy was large, causing spending on education and social and family services to increase substantially in municipalities where noncitizens made up a nonnegligible share of the electorate.