Better Living Standards
April 16, 2013
Despite discussion to the contrary, the best available economic evidence suggests thatimmigration expands the economic opportunities andincomes of Americans and helps reduce the budget deficit.
Recent research suggests that immigration raises wages and lowers prices for consumers throughout the economy. For American business owners, immigrants are both new sources of customers and employees, helping to expand production using American resources and know-how in sectors ranging from farming to technology. For American workers,the data suggest that rather than competing for identical jobs, immigrants tend to work alongside and in support of American workers, creating more and better job opportunities.
Results from recent cutting-edge economics research on the impact of immigration on wages show small but positive effects of immigration on American wages as a whole. The evidence becomes more mixed, though, when looking at specific groups of workers. While some studies show large negative impacts of immigration on low-skill workers, other estimates find that immigration raises the wages of all US workers, regardless of education. As further evidence supporting the second set of findings, one study that examines a period of rapid immigration finds that immigrants do not cause declines in wages, even among less-skilled residents.
Most studies also find that over time immigrants improve the finances of programs like Social Security and can actually help reduce the budget deficit.
And these are only the direct measured effects of immigration on individual wages, employment and the budget. Immigrants, particularly higher-skilled immigrants, start more businesses and participate in scientific and other research at higher rates than native-born Americans. These other findings hint at additional potential benefits of more immigration, including increases in innovation that could help boost overall economic growth. The high fraction of innovative Silicon Valley start-ups founded by immigrants are an important example of this point.
These potential additional boosts to economic growth are not necessary to make a case for more immigration. The evidence on the direct effects of immigration — higher wages, lower prices and net taxes — shows that immigration raises standards of living for Americans.
Comments from readers of Text I
1. April 17, 2013 at 7:03 p.m., Florianopolis - SC - Brasil Comment sent by U. N.
The experience of field research in LA while living in the US gave me two insights in support of the thesis defended by the researchers.
First, even poor campesinos from El Salvador can prosper in the US. They send their kids to school, learn English as a second language, start a small business or do work shunned by Americans.
The question is why a poor El Salvadorean can become a valuable citizen in the US and not in his native country? The US economic and social systems are set up to provide opportunity for immigrants to prosper. Immigration is the engine of growth and prosperity of the American economy.
The second argument is counter factual. Countries closed to immigration lag behind those opened to foreign skill and knowledge. Take the case of Brazil. In the 19th century, many predicted Brazil would become a world power along with the US.
The US became a major world superpower and Brazil continues to be an emerging market with a sub par educational system and illiterate population. There are many reasons and factors that could explain Brazil’s backwardness. One, however, stands out. The country is closed to immigration, even badly needed high skilled foreign professionals in dynamic sectors of the economy.
The Brazilian economy in 2013 is stagnated with the lowest rate of labor productivity among the BRICS. Lack of qualified foreign workers + poor quality of schools are the MAIN factor preventing Brazil to become a developed country in this century.
2. April 17, 2013 at 9:42 a.m., Dover - NJ - USA Comment sent by T. McK.
I really wish these writers would look at real jobs and real industries. However the data looks overall, certain jobs that were once routinely done by lower middle class workers, such as gardening, waiting at table, construction labor and so on, are almost all done by immigrants, especially illegals. And part of the reason is the poor enforcement of wage laws, and the existence of a cash economy. It may be that these jobs are now forever changed, but since we have such poor opportunities for the working class, it seems a shame to lose a class of work that had formerly been available.
For decades now, the elites (economists and social thinkers of all sorts) have told us that globalization will bring benefits. And it has, to them. But we have lost much of what provided a way of life for working folks, each time promising them that it will get better.
3. April 17, 2013 at 9:22 a.m., Dayton - Ohio - USA Comment sent by J. I.
I don’t see how the authors’ data support their case, in large part because they’ve neglected a critical issue-- precisely what kind of immigration are we talking about?
If immigration law requires that immigrants be paid a fair wage, have the right to vote and enjoy legal protections against abusive workplaces, and these are truly enforced, then yes, it’s reasonable to expect that immigrants would indeed boost living standards for both native-born and immigrant Americans alike.
But if immigrants are instead brought in as lowwage replacements for American workers, not allowed the right to vote or forced to ten or more years to gain it, and especially if employers have control over their visas and work situations, then living standards are severely damaged for both immigrants and nativeborn Americans, that is for everyone but the 0.1% wealthiest Americans who benefit from cheap labor.
Available at: <http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/16/the-economics-of-immigration/expanded-immigration-improvesliving-standards>. Access on: Sept. 4th, 2013. Adapted.
The author’s main claim in Text I is that