Economics of Immigration Are at Odds with Politics


An open letter on immigration policy was sent to President Trump and congressional leadership by 1,470 economists on April 12. I rarely sign open letters, however, in this case I felt compelled to sign because recent policy and political rhetoric surrounding immigration has strayed so far from sound social science and the general principles outlined in the letter.

I do not like arguments from authority. That’s one reason why I typically do not sign open letters by economists. It’s also one reason why I tell my students they can call me by my first name rather than “professor” or “doctor.” But experts do possess some authority by nature of their expertise. When a wide ideological cross-section of experts on a topic all agree that political discourse is at odds with good science, it is a strong sign that politicians should pause and reconsider.

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Benjamin Powell is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, Director of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University. He Independent Institute books include The Economics of Immigration: Market-Based Approaches, Social Science, and Public Policy, Housing America: Building out of Crisis, and Making Poor Nations Rich.

  New from Benjamin Powell!
THE ECONOMICS OF IMMIGRATION: Market-Based Approaches, Social Science, and Public Policy
Few topics in current affairs are as contentious as immigration. Yet despite the controversies, social scientists who study immigration largely agree about its effects, whatever differences they may have about how a nation should change its policies. Their findings, however, have been buried in academic journals accessible only to other scholars—until now. With the publication of The Economics of Immigration: Market-Based Approaches, Social Science, and Public Policy, edited by Benjamin Powell, readers can now easily access the substance of the vast scholarly literature about a subject that touches millions of lives.