Thursday, February 28, 2013

Noah Smith on immigration

Here. I don't have time to provide thoughts in detail but you can probably anticipate them.

He makes the case against labor protectionism: good.
He makes the case for high skill favoritism: bad.
He disputes some things from Dean Baker: I'll leave that one to Dean, who suggests he'll write more.

I am neck-deep in these issues right now, working on a briefing paper that hopefully you'll hear more about in the coming weeks (this ought to be quicker than the process at Urban, I think). Needless to say, the more I learn about the existing high skill programs the more I dislike them (which is not to say that I dislike high skill immigration).

My dream policy is a relatively open system with a guestworker and permanent component (with strong family-based provisions), with no picking and choosing on the guestworker side of which types of guestworkers we prefer, full portability of guestworker visas.

In the absence of that dream policy there is a lot to clean up in treatment of undocumented residents and a whole lot to clean up in high skill guestworker programs.

First and foremost I'm interested in the economics of these questions and not the politics (just because that's my area not because I think the politics are unimportant), and so I truly bristle at invocations of labor shortages to justify high skill visas.


  1. Most Americans are in favor of immigration, the question is more about who and how much. If someone really wants to make a case they must address those, but they generally don't care about who or how much, so they end talking generalities rather than the specifics that concern people.

  2. Daniel. Do you criticize "High Skill Favouritism" because you think that if there's a lot of low-skill immigrants they will vote for left-wing politicians?


    1. You found me out! It's my ploy all along.

    2. I think it's the plan of a lot of people who advocate this, even if not you.

      In my view this is the biggest problem with the idea. If the US has millions more low-skilled immigrants then they will vote for greater redistribution. By the time the immigrants have been integrated into the population and are earning similar wages then change will have occurred, and won't be easily reversible. The US will become more like a European social-democracy with European rates of growth. I think the US could become more social-democratic than European countries are.


All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.