Slate (Matt Yglesias)
Been in contact with a couple other reporters, so more should be on the way. So far I like this coverage a lot - it is overwhelmingly focusing on the shortage issue and not visa volume issue. As I noted in the last post, there are really two policy conclusions that can be legitimately derived from this research: (1.) limit high skill guestworker visas, and (2.) don't limit guestworker visas, just stop giving high skill workers an advantage. EPI itself would probably be happy to see (1.) talked about more, but I'm personally glad they largely focus on the shortage issue.
Which brings me to Yglesias's discussion of the report (which I'm very appreciative of!). He writes:
"One of my more heterodox political views is that advocacy groups do themselves a disservice by adopting BS rhetoric that simply sounds good, because they leave themselves excessively vulnerable to attack. A great illustration comes today from an Economic Policy Institute study from Hal Salzman, Daniel Kuehn, and Lindsay Lowell that shows pretty persuasively that there's no real "shortage" of STEM workers in the American economy...My question to Matt Yglesias would be, why would you think that an influx of STEM workers is better than an influx of any other type of worker? What is it about STEM workers that we need to give them a special visa to come here, making it easier than it is for other people with other skill sets? One reason we might want to do this is if there were a shortage, but there's not a shortage. So what reason is left?
At the same time, if you'd just framed the case for skilled immigrants correctly in the first place I don't think this study does really any damage to it. An influx of STEM migrants is good for the migrants themselves. It's good for the fiscal posture of the United States and for the tax base of the localities in which the STEM workers reside. And it's good for people with complementary skills or occupations, whether that's journalists or dentists or barbers or waitresses or cab drivers or what have you. Whether or not STEM migrants impose some kind of pecuniary externality on native born American STEM workers, it's a good deal all things considered."
By talking about "pecuniary externality on native born American STEM workers" he misses the point and abuses the term "externality" to boot (market competition is not an externality - I don't experience a negative externality because the rest of you bid up the price of gasoline that I have to pay). He misses the point because the problem isn't whether native STEM workers bear a cost or not - the problem is if there is a distortion in the native labor market that maybe a guided immigration policy could correct.
If not, then why emphasize STEM workers at all?