The Volokh Conspiracy

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My New Spectator (UK) Article on "The (Selfish) Case for Immigration"

The article explains how immigration has major benefits for receiving-country natives, with a focus on Britain.


It was not my plan to publish two media articles on the same day, and certainly not on a day when there are also major Supreme Court decisions. But today, the Spectator, a British publication, posted my new article on why opening doors to immigration is not merely charity for immigrants, but also benefits receiving-country natives. I did not intend for this piece to come out on the same day as my Dispatch article on the somewhat related issue of wokeness and nationalism. But that's how the two publications' timing worked out. Conspiracy-mongers (and not justVolokh Conspiracy-mongers) will, of course, suspect collusion!

Unfortunately, the Spectator does not generally include hyperlinks, which is why there are none in this article. However, the article is based in large part on a longer paper that is scheduled to be published by Institute of Economic Affairs. The IEA paper builds on material from my 2023 Public Affairs Quarterly article, "Immigration and the Economic Freedom of Natives." I will post a link to the IEA paper when it's up. In the meantime, here's an excerpt from the Spectator piece:

The 2024 general election 'should be the immigration election', Nigel Farage has said. The Reform leader's wish has been granted: the topic of immigration is a major focus of debate. It's also a big issue in the United States' presidential election. Much of the debate in both countries depicts immigrants as a burden that receiving countries should accept (if at all) only out of altruism or a sense of obligation. But this is misleading, and ignores the many benefits of migration to Britain and other receiving countries.

Accepting migrants is the right thing to do, in part because it saves many thousands of people from what would otherwise likely be a lifetime of poverty and oppression…. But opening doors to such people also benefits Britain. Immigrants work, start businesses, and contribute to scientific innovation, often at higher rates than native-born citizens. That greatly benefits current UK citizens, as well as migrants themselves….

The United States is often considered the 'nation of immigrants'. But Britain also has a long history of welcoming immigrants and benefiting from their contributions. Huguenot Protestant refugees fleeing repression in 17th and 18th century France played an important role in the early development of Britain's economy, and the beginnings of the industrial revolution. More recently, Jewish and other refugees fleeing Nazi Germany contributed to scientific development, including weapons systems crucial to winning World War II. In the post-war era, British economic growth and scientific research was significantly bolstered by migrants from South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere….

Today, in Britain, as in the US, immigrants play a disproportionate role starting new businesses. A 2023 study found that 39 per cent of the 100 fastest-growing UK companies have an immigrant founder or co-founder, even though immigrants are only 14.5 per cent of the UK population. UK immigrants are also substantially more likely to start businesses than natives, and engage in other types of entrepreneurship. Such businesses contribute to growth and innovation, and provide valuable job opportunities for both immigrants and natives….

The benefits of immigration can be literally life-saving. The first two successful Covid-19 vaccines were developed in large part thanks to immigrants or the children thereof. Some fear that immigration will overburden the government budget. But most immigrants actually contribute more to the public purse than they take out. The economist Jonathan Portes finds that government data showed that recent increases in migration (which allowed in about 350,000 more migrants than previously expected) could, on net, increase government revenue by about £5 billion per year. The long-term fiscal benefits of higher immigration are likely to be much greater….

Other parts of the article address the issue of illegal migration, and the argument (increasingly prominent in the UK) that migration causes housing shortages.

I am about to depart for a trip to the UK, where I will be giving several lectures and talks, including on migration-related topics.