October 8, 2015
OAKLAND, Calif. 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, are usually buried in academic journals accessible only to other scholars.
Now, readers can learn the substance of this vast body of research, thanks to the publication of The Economics of Immigration: Market-Based Approaches, Social Science, and Public Policy, edited by Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Powell.
It is my sincere hope that this volume can help bring some reasonable dispassionate discourse to a policy debate that is so often emotionally charged and devoid of decent scientific evidence, Powell writes.
Part I summarizes and evaluates the literature on immigration and wages, employment, economic growth, government spending and revenues, cultural and civic assimilation, and work visas, with each chapter assessing the strengths and weaknesses of various studies, highlighting the best scholarship currently available, and discerning the overall scholarly consensus on each topic.
Part II features policy recommendations. These include a market-based approach designed to improve efficiency, fairness, and economic growth; a pro-assimilation approach that would reduce immigration but legalize immigrants who are in the United States illegally; and a radical case for open borders, which draws on moral principles of various philosophical traditions as well as empirical research.
- While many worry that mass immigration would harm both the sending country and the receiving country, the opposite would be true: large numbers of economically empowered immigrants would remit more money to relatives back home, and the non-immigrants would enjoy access to goods and services made possible by the larger labor force.
- Economists estimate that a policy of open borders for wealthy countries could add $50 trillion to $150 trillion to the worlds economy. Letting even just 5 percent of the people from the poorest economies to move to richer ones would increase the worlds global GDPthe value of total final output per yearby more than would lifting all barriers in trade and capital flows.
- Immigrants are not a major fiscal drain on the federal treasury. Careful studies find that immigration results in either a slight fiscal gain or a slight fiscal drain.
Given whats at stake, immigration policy merits not only serious study by everyone who expresses an opinion on the subject, but it also warrants goodwill toward diverse thinkers putting forth bold reforms in good faith. As Powell writes, Potential immigrants, our countrymen, and our descendants deserve as much.
Benjamin Powell is Senior Fellow at Independent Institute, a non-profit, research and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity.