Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Caplan on low skill Immigration

He makes a good argument for it here. I'm always a little surprised when people who claim to like market allocation get excited about a fast-track for high skilled immigrants ("staple a green card to their diploma" and all that). I'm not particularly anti-immigrant, but the H1-B always makes me a little uneasy because it involves putting such a heavy thumb on the scales of the labor market, toward skilled labor.


  1. What "market allocation" are you talking about? Immigration is heavily regulated and controlled. The people he's speaking about are policy makers (or people following the general conventional wisdom, but specifically policy makers) who say that skilled immigration is more desirable. If this was really left up to a market allocation, we wouldn't have barriers to immigration or emigration.

    1. Labor market allocation.

      Policymakers who treat differential skill groups are distorting labor market allocations. That's my biggest concern with these "staple a greencard to a college degree" types. That's hugely distortionary.

      There's probably a case for making immigration (1.) orderly, and (2.) maybe limited to guarantee steady assimilation. You might also want these things to smooth the increased competition domestic workers will face. You may or may not like these goals.

      But you can't advocate a system that favors one class of workers and claim that that's some kind of market allocation. Immigration policy, in my mind, is social policy. Labor markets generally work well. Let labor markets determine the composition of the workers you let in, not poicymakers. Policymakers are better left to attend to social goals that may not be provided by the market.

    2. Given the pain and suffering caused by immigration restrictions, I would say any concerns regarding making it "(1.) orderly, and (2.) maybe limited to guarantee steady assimilation" are comparatively irrelevant. But then again my personal experience may bias me. I have the USCIS to thank for a period of depression and serious marital problems, around $60,000 of loss of potential income, great difficulty in seeing family members, my sister dropping out of college and more. As far as I'm concerned, we need to control immigration like we need herpes.

    3. So given my bias, I would find it hard to ever say no to stapling a green-card to anything. Diplomas, cereal boxes, walmart receipts. Any extra green-card out there is a good thing.


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