Immigration Study Sez: C'mon in, Y'all!



Immigrating from a poor country to a rich country is tough, partly because rich countries think a flood of immigrants will depress wages for their native born.

But a new review of the available literature on the impacts of immigration from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that even a massive influx of immigrants wouldn't do much to depress wages for the native born. Via Robin Hanson, who lifts a bunch of relevant passages:

Their survey of the earlier literature found that a 10 percent increase in the immigrant share of the labor force reduced native wages by about 1 percent. Recent meta-surveys … found comparable, small effects across many studies. … The large majority of studies suggest that immigration does not exert significant effects on native labor market outcomes. Even large, sudden inflows of immigrants were not found to reduce native wages or employment significantly. Effects that do exist tend to be relatively small and concentrated among natives or past immigrants that are close substitutes.

Hanson concludes: "It seems that even if 90 percent of the workforce were immigrants, average native wages wouldn't fall by more than ~10 percent."

The review deals with the effects of immigration on public finance and prices of goods and services as well, in (relatively) plain language. It's worth checking out the whole thing.

Or read Reason's guide to reality-based immigration reform here.

NEXT: Inflation Watch: Food Prices

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  1. In before the “Paleos” fill the comments with rage-filled, frothing-at-the-mouth diatribes and batshit insane rants.

    1. Not so fast. Your papers, please.

  2. That less than 10% figure is probably not equally distributed among all industries. Blue collar workers proably have more to lose. Certain white collar workers like IT professionals could also be more at risk. Professions like law or medicine, which have credentialing gatekeepers, are probably at lower risk of having wages affected.

    1. I don’t think IT professionals need to worry about immigration. It’s offshoring they have to worry about, not that I think there’s anything wrong with that.

      1. Of course if we had a sensible open-borders policy, there would be far less offshoring. Why employ an Indian in India to do your programming for $6,000 a year if you could employ that same Indian right down the block from you for the same price?

      2. The people who really need to worry about immigration restrictions are those in product management, marketing, and sales who build their careers around IT professionals. They interact with and support the highest value IT workers. If those workers can’t be brought to the US, then those teams will be built in other countries — and likely by non-US companies.

  3. Every school of economics agrees that free trade and immigration are a net benefit to all parties.

    Every school except one: the austro-anarchists in Auburn.

  4. Uncontrolled immigration is bad, in Europe the Muslims are destroying the culture, persecuting gays, attacking Jews, annoying everyone with loud calls to prayers, demanding special rights, engaging in honor killings and not assimilating.

    Read “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali if you think I’m exaggerating.

    1. Let’s say that everything you say is so. In America, two of our biggest pool of potential immigrants are part of a culture that is already widely integrated with “our” culture and were in fact here before us (in the Southwest at least); have about the same level of homophobia and anti-Semitism as the average American; go to Catholic Church; have a few annoying but harmless identity groups that a few of their population join in college to get laid; engage in rodeos and quincea?eras; have a disproportionate number of women with large breasts, and make damned tasty food that you can buy from a mobile truck.

      1. Whoops. Edit error. “Two of” was supposed to have been deleted. Sigh.

    2. Retard alert.

  5. WIDER GATES, TALLER FENCES-immigration problem solved.

    Just putting this in early so it’s at least mentioned.


  7. Quality of life is stupid. Viva La Raza!



  9. This is the kind of study that we need to have more of & which needs to be far better publicized. The ignorant savages in this country, cowering in perpetual fear of brown-skinned people with funny names & funnier religions, need to realize that there is absolutely nothing in any way damaging about having many millions of members of a foreign culture come to your country. Rather, the benefits to you & them are incalcuably enormous.

    How it is that every country on Earth keeps fighting this same arcane battle to ‘keep out people who are not of this country’ or ‘protect themselves from others who hate them’ or whatever other weird euphemism they might use to disguise their fevered bigotry is simply beyond my capacity to understand.

    I think it’s clear enough that the entire world would benefit immensely if people from overpopulated, unproductive countries & cultures were free to move to the less populated, more productive ones.

    Is there some reason to think that taking, say, half or three quarters of the population of Africa or the middle east and depositing them in, say, France would in any way negatively impact France or their indigenous countries? Of course not. France would benefit from an enormous new workforce, the immigrants would benefit from far higher wages allowing them to feed themselves & their families in far greater quantities and the home countries would benefit from remittances as well as a lessening of the demands on their own natural resources allowing those who stayed behind to have much larger families in keeping with their traditional culture.

    Over time, we would likely see their traditional culture mesh with that of France creating some beautiful new hybrid while back home their freshly emptied countries busily repopulated, creating another unfathomably large group of immigrants ready to move to the first world to increase everyone’s productivity & wealth. Exactly who loses in that situation? Well, as this study ably illustrates, no one at all. The whole world just gets better & better when people from countries & cultures that are incapable of feeding themselves are able to push their excess population growth into the countries & cultures that are the only places in human history that have ever created rising living standards.

    Sure, the haters fear that sooner or later the unproductive cultures might swamp the productive and reduce the entire world to the same low standard of living that prevailed everywhere right up until the dawn of the industrial revolution, but that’s just their fevered bigotry showing. Those of us with purer hearts can see that all people & cultures are actually equal and thus unrestrained mixing of them can only ever have salutary consequences.

    1. A good attempt at satire but you need to realize that you can’t push it too far or it just sounds ridiculous.

    2. Here’s one Heroic Mulatto!

    3. The ignorant savages in this country, cowering in perpetual fear of brown-skinned people with funny names & funnier religions, need to realize that there is absolutely nothing in any way damaging about having many millions of members of a foreign culture come to your country. Rather, the benefits to you & them are incalcuably enormous.

      How did Europe benefit from mass immigration of Muslims?

      1. Uh… turn your snark radar on.

      2. I believe that is the point he’s trying to make. He’s just using irony to do so.

    4. Is there some reason to think that taking, say, half or three quarters of the population of Africa or the middle east and depositing them in, say, France would in any way negatively impact France or their indigenous countries?

      OK, just picking out the most ridiculous idea in your comment, when in the entire history of the human race, has half to three quarters of the population of one area picked up and moved to another continent? Why should I worry about this occurring?

      1. Actually, the Huns did exactly that.

        1. It’s not totally clear who the heck all “the Huns” were. Some of them seem to have come from the Mongolia area, but not all of them. And, clearly, some people stayed in the Mongolia area.

      2. Ignoring, for the nonce, which of my ideas are ‘the most ridiculous’, why should you worry about unprecedently large population movements? Well, as this post clearly illustrates, you shouldn’t worry about it at all. In fact, if you are at all a compassionate, moral person, you should be fervently wishing for them to happen as soon as possible and, indeed, doing everything in your power to facilitate their happening.

        Let’s take Katherine’s final quote from Robin: “It seems that even if 90 percent of the workforce were immigrants, average native wages wouldn’t fall by more than ~10 percent.” and apply it to my example of France, shall we?

        If we take France, which has roughly 60M people in it, we could, per Robin, increase that population to something more like 600M by importing 540M desperately poor people and find that we had tremendously increased overall productivity & income. 540M people is really quite a lot of people. Nigeria, for example, is a fairly desperately poor country that has only about 150M people in it. So we could move all of Nigeria to France tomorrow and the only outcome would be a very slight reduction in the income & living standards of France coupled with a dramatic increase in the income & living standards of the Nigerians. If we could find 2 more Nigerias (not very hard to do in a world in which the vast majority are living at or near subsistence levels) we could move them to France as well and dramatically increase the good we’ve done.

        This is why respected economists like Bryan Caplan et al fervently believe that supporting open borders is a moral imperative. Blocking free movement of the incredible large masses of people constituting cultures that have never managed to escape the Malthusian trap is, to this way of thinking, a moral travesty. After all, it’s not like letting them swamp the only cultures that have ever escaped the Malthusian trap and have only done so for a tiny percentage of the total time humanity has existed on Earth will in any way harm anyone, it will only have good benefits.

        Taking back of the envelope calculations, let’s say that there are approx. 7B people in the world, of whom approx 700M could be called “Developed”. Further, let’s say those 700M each have per capita earnings that are 10 times the average for the other 6.3B people on the planet. (This is a dramatic understatement of the true levels of inequality that are in effect on our planet.) Then, using Robin’s 90% immigrants with a 10% reduction in income, we could have literally every single person from the entire world move to the developed countries and what would obviously happen is that they would all immediately increase their productivity & earnings by 9 times and the 700M who were already living there would still make 90% of what they were before. This would mean that the 90% of the world who were desperately poor would be 9 times richer and the 10% who were already rich would still be 90% as rich as they were. Overall, then, the world would be approx. 4.7 times as rich as it currently is.

        Basically this would completely end world poverty & usher in a new age of literally unimaginable equality & wealth for all. So let me ask you, do you support this or are you a raging bigot who wishes to consign untold numbers of humanity to desperation & poverty the likes of which you can barely imagine purely because of your irrational fears & prejudices?

        Or is there a third option that this entire approach to calculating the impact of large scale immigration is so incredibly unrealistic that attempting to base a moral calculus on it, as many economists (especially libertarians) do, is childish in the extreme?

  10. of course it doesnt effect wages since immigrants mostly do jobs citizens will not. please pass the lettuce…

    1. So you read the study?

      1. I didn’t because I am not a member of the privileged government employee class and so I don’t get it for free.

        1. …or a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

          1. none of them either

  11. But a new review of…

    At that link:
    “Information about Free Papers
    You should expect a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a “.GOV” domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.”

    At least they made their anti-American bias quite clear.

    1. No. They made their price-discrimination bias quite clear.

      As well they should given they are economists.

    2. I have serious ethical issues with restricting the availability of papers that push for changes to public policy in a purportedly democratic society. And yes, a $35 fee to view it is a restriction.

  12. The Fox’s Prophecy

    Tom Hill was in the saddle,
    One bright November morn,
    The echoing glades of Guiting Wood
    Were ringing with his horn.

    The diamonds of the hoar-frost
    Were sparkling in the sun.
    Upon the falling leaves the drops
    Were shining one by one.

    The hare lay on the fallow,
    The robin carolled free;
    The linnet and yellow finch
    Twittered from tree to tree.

    In stately march the sable rook
    Followed the clanking plough;
    Apart their watchful sentinel
    Cawed from the topmost bough.

    Peeped from her hole the field-mouse
    Amid the fallen leaves.
    From twig to twig the spider
    Her filmy cable weaves.

    The wavings of the pine boughs
    The squirrel’s form disclose;
    And through the purple beech-tops
    The whirring pheasant rose.

    The startled rabbit scuttered
    Across the grassy ride;
    High in mid-air the hovering hawk
    Wheeled round in circles wide.

    The freshest wind was blowing
    O’er groves of beech and oak
    And through the boughs of larch and pine
    The struggling sunbeam broke.

    The avried tints of autumn
    Still lingered on the wood,
    And on the leaves the morning sun
    Poured out a golden flood.

    Soft, fleecy clouds were sailing
    Across the vault of blue.
    A fairer hunting morning
    No huntsman ever knew.

    All nature seemed rejoicing
    That glorious morn to see;
    All seemed to breathe a fresher life –
    Beast, insect, bird and tree.

    But sound and sight of beauty
    Fell dull on eye and ear;
    The huntsman’s heart was heavy
    His brow oppressed with care.

    High in his stirrups raised he stood,
    And long he gazed around;
    And breathlessly and anxiously
    His listened for a sound.

    But nought he heard save the song bird
    Or jay’s discordant cry;
    Or when among the the tree-tops
    The wind went murmuring by.

    No voice of hound, no sound of horn
    The woods around were mute,
    As though the earth had swallowed up
    His comrades – man and brute.

    He thought, “I must essay to find
    My hounds at any cost;
    A huntsman who has lost his hounds
    Is but a huntsman lost”.

    Then round he turned his horse’s head
    And shook his bridle free,
    When he was struck by an aged fox
    That sat beneath a tree.

    He raised his eye in glad surprise,
    That huntsman keen and bold;
    But there was in that fox’s look
    That made his blood run cold.

    He raised his hand to touch his horn,
    And shout a “Tally-ho”
    But mastered by that fox’s eye,
    His lips refused to blow.

    For he was grim and gaunt of limb,
    With age all silvered o’er;
    He might have been an arctic fox
    Escaped from Greenland’s shore.

    But age his vigour had not tamed,
    Nor dimm’d his sparkling eye,
    Which shone with an unearthly fire –
    Fire that could never die.

    And thus the huntsman he addressed,
    In tones distinct and clear,
    Who heard as they who in a dream
    The fairies’ music hear.

    “Huntsman” he said – a sudden thrill
    Through all the listeners ran,
    To hear a creature of the wood
    Speak like a Christian man –

    “Last of my race, to me’ tis given
    The future to unfold,
    To speak the words which never yet
    Spake fox of mortal mould.

    “Then print my words upon your heart
    And stamp them on your brain,
    That you to others may impart
    My prophecy again.

    “Strong life is your’s in manhood’s prime,
    Your cheek with heat is red;
    Time has not laid his finger yet
    In earnest on your head.

    “But ere your limbs are bent with age,
    And ere yours locks are grey,
    The sport that you have loved so well
    Shall long have passed away.

    “In vain shall generous Colmore,
    Your hunt consent to keep;
    In vain the Rendcomb baronet
    With gold your stores shall heap.

    “In vain Sir Alexander,
    And Watson Keen in vain,
    O’er the pleasant Cotswold hills
    The joyous sport maintain.

    “Vain all their efforts: spite of all,
    Draws nigh the fatal morn,
    When the last Cotswold fox shall hear
    The latest huntsman’s horn.

    “Yet think not, huntsman, I rejoice
    To see the end so near;
    Nor think the sound of horn and hound
    To me a sound of fear.

    “In my strong youth, which numbers now
    Full many a winter back,
    How scornfully I shook my brush
    Before the Berkeley pack.

    “How oft from Painswick hill I’ve seen
    The morning mist uncurl,
    When Harry Airis blew the horn
    Before the wrathful Earl.

    “How oft I’ve heard the Cotswolds’ cry
    As Turner cheered the pack,
    And laughed to see his baffled hounds
    Hang vainly on my track.

    “Too well I know, by wisdom taught
    The existance of my race
    O’er all wide England’s green domain
    Is bound up with the Chase.

    “Better in early youth and strength
    The race for life to run,
    Than poisoned like the noxious rat,
    Or slain by felon gun.

    “Better by wily sleight and turn
    The eager hound to foil,
    Than slaughtered by each baser churl
    Who yet shall till the soil.

    “For not upon these hills alone
    The doom of sport shall fall;
    O’er the broad face of England creeps
    The shadow on the wall.

    “The years roll on: old manors change,
    Old customs lose their sway;
    New fashions rule; the grandsire’s garb
    Moves ridicule to-day.

    “The woodlands where my race has bred
    Unto the axe shall yield;
    Hedgerow and copse shall cease to shade
    The ever widening field.

    “The manly sports of England
    Shall vanish one by one;
    The manly blood of England
    In weaker veins shall run.

    “The furzy down, the moorland heath,
    The steam plough shall invade;
    Nor park nor manor shall escape –
    Common, nor forest glade.

    “Degenerate sons of manlier sires
    To lower joys shall fall;
    The faithless lore of Germany,
    The gilded vice of Gaul.

    “The sports of their forefathers
    To baser tastes shall yield;
    The vices of the town displace
    The pleasures of the field.

    “For swiftly o’er the level shore
    The waves of progress ride;
    The ancient landmarks one by one
    Shall sink beneath the tide.

    “Time honoured creeds and ancient faith,
    The Alter and the Crown,
    Lordship’s hereditary right,
    Before that tide go down.

    “Base churls shall mock the mighty names
    Writ on the roll of time;
    Religion shall be held a jest,
    And loyalty a crime.

    “No word of prayer, no hmyn of praise
    Sound in the village school;
    The people’s education
    Utilitarians rule.

    “In England’s ancient pulpits
    Lay orators shall preach
    New creeds, and free religions
    Self made apostles teach.

    “The peasants to their daily tasks
    In surly silence fall;
    No kindly hospitalities
    In farmhouse nor in hall.

    “Nor harvest feast nor Christmas tide
    Shall farm or manor hold;
    Science alone can plenty give,
    The only God is gold.

    “The homes where love and peace should dwell
    Fierce politics shall vex,
    And unsexed woman strive to prove
    Herself the coarser sex.

    “Mechanics in their workshops
    Affairs of state decide;
    Honour and truth – old fashioned words –
    The noisy mob deride.

    “The statesman that should rule the realm
    Coarse demagogues displace;
    The glory of a thousand years
    Shall end in foul disgrace.

    The honour of old England,
    Cotton shall buy and sell,
    And hardware manufacturers
    Cry “Peace – lo, all is well”.

    Trade shall be held the only good
    And gain the sole device;
    The statesman’s maxim shall be peace,
    and peace at any price.

    “Her army and her navy
    Britain shall cast aside;
    Soldiers and ships are costly things,
    Defence an empty pride.

    “The German and the Muscovite
    Shall rule the narrow seas;
    Old England’s flag shall cease to float
    In triumph on the breeze.

    “The footsteps of th’ invader,
    Then England’s shore shall know,
    While home-bred traitors give the hand
    To England’s every foe.

    “Disarmed, before the foreigner,
    The knee shall humbly bend,
    And yield the treasures that she lacked
    The wisdom to defend.

    “But not for aye – yet once again,
    When purged by fire and sword,
    The land her freedom shall regain,
    To manlier thoughts restored.

    “Taught wisdom by disaster,
    England shall learn to know,
    That trade is not the only gain
    Heaven gives to man below.

    “The greed for gold departed
    The golden calf cast down,
    Old England’s sons shall raise again
    The Alter and the Crown.

    “Rejoicing seas shall welcome
    Their mistress once again;
    Once more the banner of St George
    Shall rule upon the main.

    “The blood of the invader
    Her pastures shall manure,
    His bones unburied on her fields
    For monuments to endure.

    “Again in hall and homestead,
    Shall joy and peace be seen,
    And smiling children raise again
    The maypole on the green.

    “Again the hospitable board
    Shall groan with Christmas cheer,
    And mutual service bind again
    The peasant and the peer.

    “Again the smiling hedgerow
    Shall field from field divide;
    Again among the woodlands
    The scarlet troop shall ride.”

    Again it seemed that aged fox,
    More prophecies would say,
    When sudden came upon the wind,
    “Hark forrard, gone away”.

    The listener started from his trance –
    He sat there all alone;
    That well-known cry had burst the spell,
    The aged fox was gone.

    The huntsman turned,
    He spurred his steed,
    And to the cry he sped;
    And when he thought upon that fox,
    Said naught, but shook his head.

  13. Hanson concludes: “It seems that even if 90 percent of the workforce were immigrants, average native wages wouldn’t fall by more than ~10 percent.”

    That’s what we in the logic industry call a reductio ad absurdum.

    It seems more likely that

    (a) immigration is more likely to occur in places where wages are rising anyway, and

    (b) as the initial wave of immigration lowers native wages, it lowers immigrant wages even more so, thus discouraging further immigration and halting the wage decrease.

    Both of these plausible scenarios could explain the outcomes found in the so-called study.

  14. Via Robin Hanson, who lifts a bunch of relevant passages:

    It’s also worth reading the comments, where his readers adroitly handed this poor fool his ass.

  15. — I read Reason’s guide to reality-based immigration reform that you pointed to in the last sentence —

    I don’t want to harsh, but fail! Your comments and my replies :

    . It’s a simple fact that anything that applies to immigrants will have to apply to U.S. citizens. (No, no, don’t you see?only immigrants will have to show documents showing they are immigrants? Umm?)Umm?
    / Fair. Anything that applies to immigrants will apply. Rebut – Correctly, All must show documents for legitamite reasons – example, traffic stop.

    . To be fair, the president’s confusion is ours as a country: This nation of immigrants has never been particularly comfortable with new arrivals.
    / To be fair, the confusion is ours : No group has ever been particularly comfortable with new arrivals.

    . In fact, a plurality of the American people is in favor of reducing the flow of legal immigrants
    / As you likely know, we are in favor of reducing the flow of legal immigrant while overwhelmed by illegal.

    * And I delight in telling you that I married I found and met in Mexico d.f. !

  16. But a new review of the available literature…

    which rehashes the same old shit — in an utterly amazing turn of events — comes to the same old conclusions.

    So we should convert all US carrier strike groups to immigrant transports, and start giving them free passage. Just keep them coming in, from anywhere and everywhere, as fast as you can.

    Because we’re all going to be so much better off that it’d be worth building more and more carriers, to bring more and more immigrants in.

    So, when do we start?

  17. Can a C-130 get from Asia to the US? We could have those things bringing immigrants in too. Anyway I’m sure our military has 747’s and there’s no doubt they can make the pacific pond jump.

    Oh and by the way, we need to start putting Allie-Allie-All-Free signs along the Mexican border. We can get huge shit loads of economy-boosting, improve-everybody’s-life-instantly immigrant types that way.

    We can sign them all up for public schools and food stamps the day they get here, and register them as Democrats too so they can all vote for socialism and wow how fortunate, they’ll be just in time for ObamaCare.

    It’s gonna be a swell time for everybody. I mean, if we can run those carriers and 747’s fast enough, we can get ’em in here before they even figure out our economy is tanked. Don’t worry because in the long run somehow — as “recent studies clearly show” — it’s all going to be real swell when it’s all done.

    I mean, if you’re an anarchist and you think there shouldn’t be governments, then getting all these people on the public dole asap is the best thing that could ever have happened.

  18. So we should convert all US carrier strike groups to immigrant transports, and start giving them free passage. Just keep them coming in, from anywhere and everywhere, as fast as you can.

    Actually, that doesn’t follow.

    These economic studies look at what has happened in the past, so they are mostly valid only under those past conditions.

    Those conditions did not include subsidized transport of unwilling immigrants. Rather, they included self-selected immigrants who paid real costs — including, for some, costs of having to enter and work illegally — because they believed that they could make enough to make it worth those costs. That is exactly the sort of microeconomic behavior that generally adds wealth to the economy. Add subsidized or forced transportation and the original conditions of those studies no longer hold.

    I mean, if you’re an anarchist and you think there shouldn’t be governments, then getting all these people on the public dole asap is the best thing that could ever have happened.

    I guess you’re being facetious, because you know that anarchists are against the public dole. But another of those conditions that this study was done under is that few immigrants, and no illegal immigrants, are on the public dole.

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