David R. Henderson  

U.S. Immigration Has Had a Large Positive Long-Run Impact

PRINT
Reasoning from a price change ... American banking: Socialism o...
Our findings provide evidence that helps us better understand the impacts of immigration in United States history. The first is that, in the long-run immigration has had extremely large economic benefits. The second is that there is no evidence that these long-run benefits come at short-run costs. In fact, immigration immediately led to economic benefits for those already living in the area in the form of higher incomes, higher productivity, more innovation, and more industrialization.
This is an excerpt from Jeffrey Miron, Nathan Nunn, Nancy Qian, & Sandra Sequoia, "Migrants and the Making of America: The Short- and Long-Run Effects of Immigration During the Age of Mass Migration," May 31, 2017. It's based on Nathan Nunn, Nancy Qian, and Sandra Sequeira, "Migrants and the Making of America: The Short- and Long-Run Effects of Immigration during the Age of Mass Migration," January 2017.

Their methodology for reaching this conclusion is very clever: it involves railroads. Take a look for yourself.

Nathan Nunn is at Harvard University and is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research and Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development; Nancy Qian is at Yale University and is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research and Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development; Sandra Sequoia is at the London School of Economics and Center for Economic and Policy Research.

HT2 Jeffrey Miron of Harvard University and the Cato Institute.


Comments and Sharing






COMMENTS (21 to date)
Andrew_FL writes:

Not calculated: the % of the increase in government debt or increase in the level of federal regulation which immigrant voters affirmatively, overwhelmingly voted for and are responsible for.

What a joke.

Jock writes:

David

This is not difficult. Repeat after me. Hi quality immigrants bring net benefits and low quality immigrants bring net costs.

To fail to distinguish is to lie.

That is all.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Jock,
This is not difficult. Repeat after me. Hi quality immigrants bring net benefits and low quality immigrants bring net costs.
I won’t repeat after you, but if this is your awkward way of starting a conversation, then I’m game. What I would like to know is how you would judge the quality of an immigrant. What data would you look at? Also, would you have judged the quality of Irish immigrants in the 1840s to be low or high?

Jock writes:

I can't speak for the 1840s but in today's conditions, again, it's not difficult. Look at the level of education achieved and the crime rates of the first US born generation. The differences between immigrants from different sources are stark.

E. Harding writes:

"Also, would you have judged the quality of Irish immigrants in the 1840s to be low or high?"

-On average (judging by contemporary descriptions), low, but vastly outweighed in the long run by the effect of the British immigration of the 1840s to 1860s and the German immigration of the 1860s to 1880s. Jock is 100% right. As far as I can tell from his blog posts on the subject, David seems to consider all immigrants to be the same, which is quite inconsistent with reality. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this.

The same study should be done for the 1970 to 2010 period. I suspect the results would be quite different (just look at the relative economic decline of Southern California from 1970 to today).

Don Boudreaux writes:

Jock: To conclude that high-skilled immigrants are a better deal than low-skilled immigrants comes close to being a commission of the same fallacy that leads some people to conclude that a pound of lead weighs more than a pound of feathers

Each dollar of net value added to our economy is a dollar of net value added, regardless if it is added by one-minute of work by a high-skilled person or by ten-minutes of work by a low-skilled person.

Of course, the low-skilled and high-skilled persons might differ in the amounts they consume from the public fisc. But this possibility doesn't justify the standard conclusion that high-skilled immigrants are necessarily a better deal for us than are low-skilled immigrants.

If I may be so bold.

Jon Murphy writes:

@jock:

Look at the level of education achieved

It seems to me the problem is simple, then: increase educational opportunities for these immigrants (to be clear, I am not advocating state-sponsored education, although that is one possible option).

Besides, since education in the US (and Europe) is considerably better than in many other countries, if we allow immigrants in, and they become better educated, then they become "higher quality," helping to improve the US (and, indeed, the world).

Regarding crime rates, I only looked quickly but I could just find this chart from the Washington Post. When you tell us to look at the crime rate of the first born US generation, it looks like, in this chart, that they're simply moving closer to the US norm.

Thaomas writes:

This is interesting, but does not shed much light on the costs and benefits of marginal changes in immigration (or forced emigration) in 2017.

My guess is that almost no amount of immigration of university educated people (including those who come to the US for degrees) could be prejudicial to existing residents. As for immigration of unskilled immigrants, 2-3 million per year, especially if fairly well distributed among different ethnic backgrounds, would be OK but tens of millions/year could have net long run costs. Costs at any level can be reduced by avoiding recessions and programs to assist assimilation leading to citizenship such as language training, jobs training and placement, access to health insurance.

It is unfortunate that we have not been able to have a dialogue about comprehensive immigration reform that could address changes in the numbers and kinds of immigration that would lead to maximum benefits. Neither nativist exclusion nor Libertarian open borders is a very good starting point for this conversation.

David R. Henderson writes:

@E. Harding,
As far as I can tell from his blog posts on the subject, David seems to consider all immigrants to be the same, which is quite inconsistent with reality. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this.
Yes, you are wrong. Einstein was not the same as an immigrant murderer. Indeed, I don’t think anyone’s the same as as anyone else. All have their pluses and minuses.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Thaomas,
Costs at any level can be reduced by avoiding recessions and programs to assist assimilation leading to citizenship such as language training, jobs training and placement, access to health insurance.
Clearly, avoiding recessions is desirable. For the rest, though, this is too vague for me to comment on. If on the last three, you’re referring to government programs, these are likely to make costs higher rather than lower.

Hazel Meade writes:

@Andrew_FL,

Are we going to tally this up against the amount of government debt and federal regulation voted for by US citizens? Cause last time I checked at least 50% of the native born US population was totally in favor of those things, nevermind the overwhelming majority of Europeans and Canadians.
Socialism, whatever we might think of it, was not invented by Muslims or Hispanics or Indians or Chinese. It was invented by white Europeans.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Hazel Meade,
Good points, Hazel. Thanks.
As I understand it, Andrew_FL seems to be opposing the immigration of Germans back in the 19th century also. Of course, I’m assuming he actually read the study that I linked to.
By the way, though, we’ve never had a national referendum on government debt and/or federal regulation. So we can’t be sure what exactly people voted for.

Mercer writes:

The study linked to is about immigration ending in 1920.

Earth to Henderson: A lot has changed since 1920. There is a lot less work for low skilled people in USA factories. Governments give out a lot more in benefits.

" low-skilled and high-skilled persons might differ in the amounts they consume from the public fisc. But this possibility doesn't justify the standard conclusion that high-skilled immigrants are necessarily a better deal"

Why doesn't it justify the conclusion? Do you want to pay higher taxes for more low skilled immigrants government benefits?

Jon Murphy writes:

@Mercer:

All that's an argument against the welfare state, not immigration.

Andrew_FL writes:

@Hazel Meade-

"Are we going to tally this up against the amount of government debt and federal regulation voted for by US citizens? Cause last time I checked at least 50% of the native born US population was totally in favor of those things, nevermind the overwhelming majority of Europeans and Canadians."

Are we calculating the effect of immigration on the economy or are we engaged in a deflection exercise?

"Socialism, whatever we might think of it, was not invented by Muslims or Hispanics or Indians or Chinese. It was invented by white Europeans."

The Inca Empire would find this claim surprising.

@David Henderson-

"As I understand it, Andrew_FL seems to be opposing the immigration of Germans back in the 19th century also. Of course, I’m assuming he actually read the study that I linked to."

Unless 19th Century Germans were voting overwhelmingly for the party of slavery, no. Actually I don't "oppose the immigration" of anyone. I oppose open borders. Immigration at reasonable limited levels is fine.

"By the way, though, we’ve never had a national referendum on government debt and/or federal regulation. So we can’t be sure what exactly people voted for."

This is nonsense. We know which groups overwhelmingly vote for what policies and what parties. Pretending we'd need to hold a direct referendum on each issue to know people's political preferences is denying a very vast amount of data and history.

Jon Murphy writes:

@Andrew_FL

Pretending we'd need to hold a direct referendum on each issue to know people's political preferences is denying a very vast amount of data and history.

I'd prefer it to say "we'd prefer to look at what what people actually say rather than what proxies and assumptions about them say they want."

What if, for example, the vast amount of naturalized citizens vote for Democrats because they don't like how Republicans blame them for everything and not because they support any of the Dem's platform? That'd put quite the wrench in your argument, no?

Besides, immigration and naturalization are two different things. Blaming immigration for naturalization issues is a bad thing

Andrew_FL writes:
What if, for example, the vast amount of naturalized citizens vote for Democrats because they don't like how Republicans blame them for everything and not because they support any of the Dem's platform? That'd put quite the wrench in your argument, no?

Oh, that old chestnut. That would explain why if you poll them about the issues instead, they're even more left wing than you'd expect.

Oh wait, no it wouldn't.

Besides, immigration and naturalization are two different things. Blaming immigration for naturalization issues is a bad thing

No, they are the same thing. Immigration without naturalization and voting is apartheid.

Jon Murphy writes:

@Andrew_FL

No, they are the same thing.

No, they are not. Immigration refers to people who come into the country. They may or may not intend to become citizens. Naturalization refers to those who do wish to become citizens. Naturalization is the process by which they become citizens. Nothing says we cannot have a broad open borders policy but a more restrictive naturalization policy. Let people come and go as they please (so long as they follow our laws and legislation, of course), but if they want the same rights as citizens, they need to go through a specific process.

Weir writes:

@Jon Murphy

"All that's an argument against the welfare state, not immigration."

For the sake of argument, all things being equal, we could assume away the existence of the welfare state. We could bracket out all the occupational licensing laws. We could pretend there's no war on drugs and no prescriptions for opioids either. No minimum wage. No massive job-killing taxes. We could ignore all the zoning restrictions that make cities so expensive. We could deny any number of restrictive policies politicians have come up with to stop people from becoming workers, and we can avoid talking about automation and self-driving cars and all the improvements to productivity that also get in the way of unskilled, uncredentialled, unsheltered people being able to make a living in these rent-seeking societies called France or the US or Japan. But our arguments for unregulated immigration would actually be stronger, more persuasive, if we acknowledged the existence of all these crippling regulations that have the effect, and often the intention, of preventing immigrants from becoming workers.

Andrew_FL writes:
Nothing says we cannot have a broad open borders policy but a more restrictive naturalization policy. Let people come and go as they please (so long as they follow our laws and legislation, of course), but if they want the same rights as citizens, they need to go through a specific process.

Nothing says it apart from the fact that the two are impossible to have in combination outside of your imagination where you can successfully turn America into an apartheid state.

Ken2_CA writes:

Okay, typical mixing of apples and oranges once again for those supporting open borders policy.

An illegal alien is exactly as stated - illegal. Their entering this country avoiding the vetting process, puts American Citizens at risk. It is a serious national security issue.

It is no different than a burglar breaking into your home and demanding you feed, cloth and educate them, for the express reason they are inside now and you owe it to them. Perhaps you let them have your bed too? That is not emigration. That is migration and invasioion.

Legal emigration has for the last three centuries been the bedrock for the formation of this great nation. Properly managed, it strengthens and provides new ideas and challenges. It has not always been smooth, but the system has worked.

That said, when someone sneaks in without going through the proper procedures, they skirt a system that has helped to identify those who should not be allowed to enter. Whether for reasons of criminal activity, or disease, it helps determine who should be allowed into this country - or not. And for how long.

Don't want borders? I suppose you leave your doors unlocked and allow anyone to walk into your home at all hours? I serously doubt that is the case. It's the same for our country.

A country without secure borders is doomed to failure.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top