Data: Open Country?

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Rags-to-riches tales of immigrants who make good are part of America's national mythology. But researchers from the Center for Global Development have found that for immigrants from poor countries, the American Dream may be easier to find somewhere else.

Analysts compared 21 countries using six weighted measures of openness, including the number of immigrants from poor countries each admits relative to its population and the net change in unskilled immigrants from poor countries between 1990 and 2000. Ranked on a 12 point scale, the United States finished in the middle, better than Norway and Italy but behind such countries as Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

Why the mediocre score? One major reason is the low number of legal immigrants from poor countries that the U.S. absorbs relative to its size. The number of refugees and asylum seekers accepted every year also compares unfavorably.

That hardly gives the whole picture about immigration in America, where success stories are largely written in the underground economy. But it is another sign of how unevenly the U.S. treats many of its newcomers: Welcomed by businesses, they're spurned by bureaucrats.

Chart (not available online): Most Open to Migration, 2006 Source: Center for Global Development

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