Thursday, November 29, 2007

Immigration Stats

Lots of immigration info in this report. I don't know anything about the Center for Immigration Studies, other than they claim to be non-partisan. Seems like this is a right-leaning group, based on their emphases, but that's a bit of a WAG. The data seems to be pretty close to the primary sources.

I'm slightly surprised that more than 50% of the immigration growth since 2000 is illegal. But I'm very surprised that we've brought in 4.7 million legals. I thought that legal immigration had slowed dramatically after 9/11. Even without illegals, there still seems to be a significantly steeper, linear curve, starting about 1980.

In general, I'm for a large amount of immigration. I don't much care whether it's legal or illegal--immigrants are almost always go-getters, the kind of people that really contribute to your society. I'm more concerned about border porosity for national security reasons than I am about illegals scooping up the sub-minimum wage job market and being a burden on services. Where I live in Texas, Mexican immigration has been a fact of life for decades. In general, immigrants here assimilate superbly and work their butts off, which is all we can ask of anybody, legal or illegal.

My only concern is that the general pattern of immigration in the US has been to have a large influx of immigrants, followed by a period of virtually no immigration. This gave the country time to assimilate the previous influx. That doesn't appear to be happening any more. When 10% of your population is comprised of recent immigrants, you're putting some stress on lots of societal conventions. On the other hand, I suspect that immigrants, in addition to comprising some of the least productive people in the society, also comprise a bigger chunk of the most productive. Without a constant influx of skilled workers, the economy would be in trouble.

This may be another case where information efficiency has fundamentally changed the rules of the game. The entire world knows where the best living standards are and knows how to get there. Ultimately, when you have potential differences like this, there will continue to be an influx until everything equilibrates. The practical implication of this is that we ought to spend more time worrying about how to improve living standards in the developing world than we do figuring out ways to keep people out.

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