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On experts

On the Left right now they’re passing around a paper which suggests that immigration boosts median income. Since the modern American elite Left is pro-immigration they naturally take a shine to such papers, and my own impression from talking to economists is that a “pro-immigration” position is mainstream within the discipline. Fair enough. But how many liberals would accept the mainstream position on the minimum wage? Now all of a sudden I suspect you’d be hearing objections based on what the economic models leave out, how they’re oversimplified, etc.

Or, consider what happened with Ross Douthat’s column on assimilation, nativism, and anti-Catholicism. An individual who I was discussing the issue with pointed me to a historian who “debunked” Douthat’s assertion in a few sentences, stating plainly that Douthat was simply wrong. Stop!!! If a historian gives you a straight, black & white answer, without nuance, he’s telling you what you want to hear! Or, he’s telling you what he believes for normative, not positivist, reasons.


  • Larry, San Francisco · August 31, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    You have to look at out migration. Lower skilled black and white workers have been leaving California for over a decade. Not surprising that the ones who remained have higher incomes. Would be interesting to see the paper though.

  • John · September 1, 2010 at 3:40 am

    I’m betting the study doesn’t take into account that the natives are paying higher taxes to support the health care and education of the low income immigrants, and the cost of having to move to a new neighborhood so that their kids can go to school with other English speakers.

    High IQ immigrants help a nation in the long run. Low IQ immigrants hurt it. It is high time we institute a point system that benefits the smart.

  • Author comment by David Hume · September 1, 2010 at 4:12 am

    john, just so you know…i have a friend who is an economist who is very focused on psychometrics and believes in between-group differences and utilizes it in his research. but, he still holds to the conventional views re: immigration stated above after doing his own math. that’s why i have to report the mainstream view in good conscience.

  • outeast · September 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Why should it come as a surprise that ‘a “pro-immigration” position is mainstream within the discipline [of economics]’? My impression is that economics tends to be strongly biased in favour of a free market (whether justly or not I’m not qualified to judge, though I have my own biases of course) and freedom of labour fits that orthodoxy.

  • Cephus · September 1, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    The real issue here isn’t whether or not immigrants hurt or help the economy because you can’t simply answer that with a yes or no. People compare the modern illegal immigrant invasion with, say, Ellis Island back in the early part of the last century. Sorry, there simply is no comparison. Those people coming through Ellis Island were leaving their old countries behind and adopting America and American culture, traditions and customs. They were becoming Americans, they were not coming here for free health care and education, they were coming to become American citizens. The modern invasion has nothing to do with that. It’s people with minimal skill sets, coming to this country illegally, using far more resources than they are giving back, sending large portions of their under-the-table paychecks out of the country, and then when they think they’ve made enough, they leave themselves to go back home. They are not here to better themselves and become Americans, they are here to abuse the system, make a quick buck, get things for free and then abandon the nation that has done so much for them.

  • John · September 2, 2010 at 2:15 am

    No problem, David Hume. It was a thought provoking article.

  • outeast · September 2, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Cephus, repeating a string of political convictions is neither here nor there – in fact, you’re evincing the exact same behaviour that Razib predicted for left-wingers presented with economists’ evidence on the actual real-life effects of the minimum wage.

    True or false, your claims are irrelevant to the study findings, which were specifically based on an analysis of modern immigration in the US. If these studies’ findings are robust, immigration is a net economic good for the US even if ‘the modern invasion’ has all the negative attributes you claim.

    (As a snarky aside: immigrants coming into a country, doing the low-paid unskilled scutwork, then getting the hell out is actually rather convenient for that country – and certainly good for industries that need seasonally variable supplies of very low-cost labour, preferably unprotected by labour law (it’s ethical anathema to me; but nonetheless). I find it slightly amusing that this should make you mad: would you prefer it if your immigrants were coming in, taking skilled artisan jobs from native labour, and staying forever? :))

  • Le Mur · September 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Article: The effects of immigration on the total output and income of the U.S. economy can be studied by comparing output per worker and employment in states that have had large immigrant inflows with data from states that have few new foreign-born workers.

    IOW, immigrants move to where there’s money to be made, which is why Mexicans move to the US rather than Guatemala (Guatemalans are typically beat up and robbed when they try to enter Mexico).

    How about comparing countries with lots of immigration (Canada) to countries with low immigration (Japan)?

    The word “welfare” isn’t in the original article, therefore the article isn’t complete.



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