Arnold Kling  

Tyler Cowen on Mexican Immigration

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He writes,


Mexican immigrants used to have higher-than-average levels of education, but today the average male Mexican migrant has lower-than-average education by Mexican standards...

A better immigration policy would tighten the border, while allowing in more legal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin countries, and require higher levels of education. Young Mexicans would see greater reason to invest in education, to the benefit of all Mexican society, not just those who cross the border.


I thought that the immigration topic was "a well-squeezed orange," as the late economic historian Charles Kindleberger used to put it, referring to subjects where he doubted that there was much new to say. But Tyler manages to say a lot of new things in his piece. It is a very worthwhile read.

However, I winced at the sentence, "Shutting the Mexican border... would paralyze American businesses and agriculture." The word paralyze is far too strong, in my opinion. I would have said require adjustments in instead. I suspect that unskilled labor is a factor of production for which substitution is not terribly difficult.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
James writes:

"A better immigration policy would tighten the border, while allowing in more legal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin countries, and require higher levels of education."

This seems like grafting new interventionist policy (an education requirement) onto old interventionist policy (state provided benefits). Why not simply reduce or do away with handout policies that diminish productivity incentives in the first place?

Alex writes:

This seems like grafting new interventionist policy (an education requirement) onto old interventionist policy (state provided benefits). Why not simply reduce or do away with handout policies that diminish productivity incentives in the first place?

James, What do you mean by state provided benefits? As far as i understand state does not provide any significant benefits to the illegal immigrants.
I am skepticl of educational requirement, because it is not covering the problem. In my opinion the problem is involved plenty of people with various degree of education who find it advantageous to risk becoming illigal immigratns as opposed to trying to make it in their own country. If tightening borders would bbe feaseable enough I am sure America would have done away with it already. But since ti is very expansive and the effects on the number of immigrants is uncertain, i would go for a simpler suggestion.
Give away more temporary visas!!!!!! This will allow guest workers to make some money legally and raise their cost of getting caught. Also, this guest workiers should be covered by some sort of temporary healh plan and have all the benefits of LEGAL entry , thus additionally discouraging illegal means. Another benefit of such system would be taxes collected from all the legal workers/ firms and many jobs which now are filled by illegal immigrants would be filled by legal ones.
On the other side all the illegal immigrants should be allowed to transfer themselves to the legal guest worker program and logically they will leave as soon as their temporary visas expires. It might be much easier than hunting people down with dogs and raving that immigrants are stealing the jobs. I would also suggest minimum wage for immigrants should be either reduced or abloished( not the living conditions( OSHA) or health benefits) that way they if they can earn here more than they can do at home let them do it.
Overall, I see guest workers making more money in a legal and safe way. Illegal immigrants given a chance to legalize and still make some money. American firms will get good and less expansive employyes and goverment will save on all boarder expanses and police costs.

Enigma writes:

I second this policy (control low-skill immigration and go wild with high-skill), but educated Mexicans should not be preferred over all the brains that could be drained from the developing world.

Steve Sailer writes:

Arnold wrote:

"However, I winced at the sentence, "Shutting the Mexican border... would paralyze American businesses and agriculture." The word paralyze is far too strong, in my opinion. I would have said require adjustments in instead. I suspect that unskilled labor is a factor of production for which substitution is not terribly difficult."

Well said. Thanks.

shecky writes:
I suspect that unskilled labor is a factor of production for which substitution is not terribly difficult.

Examples? Why are these substitutions not implemented now? Is this to suggest that the US economy will find robots to do the work?

Mark Seecof writes:

Cowen tells us that "a [Mexican] high school diploma brings higher wages in Mexico, but in the United States the more educated [Mexican] migrants do not earn noticeably more than those who have less education."

He then writes that many Mexicans wish to migrate to the USA, so they neglect education in Mexico because it will not reward them in the USA.

Cowen proposes to relieve two problems inside Mexico:

1. "[M]any Mexicans, knowing they may someday go to the United States, see less reason to invest in education."

2. "[T]he migration-driven gender imbalance of rural Mexico. It is common for villages to have many unmarried young women, but virtually no young men. The women who are married often go without their husbands for years. The remaining men are more likely to treat their women badly, knowing they can always find another partner."

Cowen proposes to relieve only one problem inside the USA: "Less-educated migrants are more likely to bring crime and social problems, and they are less likely to assimilate."

To fix the USA-side problem, Cowen suggests we "tighten the border." Then he goes on to suggest that we admit more-educated Mexicans legally, to give Mexicans an incentive to obtain more education in Mexico.

Well, if we only tighten the border (that is, exclude most would-be Mexican immigrants), by Cowen's reasoning, that would solve the Mexican problems he identifies. We wouldn't need to admit any Mexicans, high-schooled or otherwise.

Suppose we end most Mexican immigration. Mexicans will discover greater incentives to education (Problem 1), because (as Cowen told us), educated Mexicans earn more in Mexico.

When we end most Mexican immigration, Mexican women will be able to marry Mexican men without following them North (Problem 2). The men will even be better-educated thanks to the shift in incentives.

By Cowen's own analysis, there is no reason to admit any significant number of Mexicans to the USA. When we admit more, we admit "crime and social problems" with them. When we admit more, we reduce their incentive to assimilate (since they can live in Mexican-immigrant barrios, and support rent-seeking "community leaders").

There's another reason to close the border. Since doing so would adjust incentives to produce happy, well-educated Mexican couples in Mexico we could then spare American taxpayers the cost of doctoring, educating, policing, and income-supporting those happy Mexican couples and their offspring.

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