One key to Republican Donald Trump’s appeal to voters is a negative view of immigration, not merely his incendiary remarks about Mexico sending criminals north, but that immigrants “compete directly against vulnerable American workers.”
Yet a landmark report released last week disputes this, saying that immigrants have little effect on employment levels or wages while bringing many positives to the economy.
I don’t claim to have read all 496 pages of “The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration,” by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. But the work of its 14 leading scholars offers the deepest dive yet into this contentious topic. They studied 20 years of trends. Here are some of the headline findings:
• The effects of immigration on native-born workers are “very small” when examined over a decade or more.
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• The workers most likely to be affected are native-born workers who haven’t completed high school and recent immigrants.
• Little evidence emerged that immigration “significantly” affects native-born American workers as far as overall employment levels.
• Some evidence shows that immigrants cut the employment rate of prior immigrants. It also indicates that it reduces the number of hours worked by native-born teenagers.
• First-generation immigrants may be costly to local and state governments in terms of education and health care. But the second generation turns into net-positive taxpayers.
• “Immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S.”
Over the past 20 or so years, the United States has experienced its largest ever wave of immigration. It surpasses even that of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which led to tight immigration restrictions from the 1920s until 1965. This was not merely a result of nativist backlash, but a concern that immigrants were taking jobs that should go to (mostly white) Americans and depressing wages. The sentiment has resurfaced in recent years.
The National Academies study says no. But this is a complex report likely to be taken apart, studied, reviewed and debated for months. Two questions I have are: 1) Does it examine the saturation point for immigration in an overpopulated world with peoples displaced by climate change and war; 2) Does it factor in changes to the economy over the past two decades, especially more concentrated industries and monopolies, as well as rising automation, to discuss the effects?
In the meantime, you can read the summary and the entire report here.
Today’s Econ Haiku:
Who won the debate?
Misinformation on trade
Long arms, short fingers