Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tyler Cowen on Immigration

. Sunday, October 31, 2010

Very good:

In other words, immigrants may be competing more with offshored workers than with other laborers in America. ...

We see the job-creating benefits of trade and immigration every day, even if we don’t always recognize them. As other papers by Professor Peri have shown, low-skilled immigrants usually fill gaps in American labor markets and generally enhance domestic business prospects rather than destroy jobs; this occurs because of an important phenomenon, the presence of what are known as “complementary” workers, namely those who add value to the work of others. An immigrant will often take a job as a construction worker, a drywall installer or a taxi driver, for example, while a native-born worker may end up being promoted to supervisor. And as immigrants succeed here, they help the United States develop strong business and social networks with the rest of the world, making it easier for us to do business with India, Brazil and most other countries, again creating more jobs.

[I]t’s not all about one group of people taking jobs from another. Job creation and destruction are so intertwined that, over all, the authors find no statistically verifiable connection between offshoring and net creation of American jobs. ...

When it comes to immigration, positive-sum thinking is too often absent in public discourse these days. Debates on immigration and labor markets reflect some common human cognitive failings — namely, that we are quicker to vilify groups of different “others” than we are to blame impersonal forces.

The current skepticism has deadlocked prospects for immigration reform, even though no one is particularly happy with the status quo. Against that trend, we should be looking to immigration as a creative force in our economic favor. Allowing in more immigrants, skilled and unskilled, wouldn’t just create jobs. It could increase tax revenue, help finance Social Security, bring new home buyers and improve the business environment.

And yet many do not see it that way. This is not just an American problem. Migrant workers are also viewed suspiciously (at best) in developed Europe, are treated miserably in the Middle East, and are largely prohibited in China.

I wish this sort of economic argument would be persuasive, but in the end I don't think it's enough. I think people view society largely in terms of identity and ownership, and they don't want to lose control of that even if it would benefit them materially. I wish I was wrong about that. I don't think I am.


Emmanuel said...

Like may other things, this is an American-led problem since it is at the forefront of countries blocking the discussion of GATS provisions on the temporary movement of natural persons.

As some folks suggest, the US has made it incumbent on the rest of us to get by with D-I-Y globalization.

Tyler Cowen on Immigration




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