The Immigration Equation

THE IMMIGRATION EQUATION….I’d like to join a legion of other bloggers in recommending “The Immigration Equation,” Roger Lowenstein’s piece in the New York Times Magazine yesterday about the economics of immigration. In fact, based on his previous pieces in the magazine, I think I’d be safe in recommending practically everything he writes for them sight unseen.

The nickel version of Lowenstein’s investigation is that, yes, basic economics suggests that importing millions of unskilled Mexican immigrants ought to reduce the wages of unskilled native-born Americans and make it harder for them to find jobs. And yet, mysteriously, it doesn’t seem to. At most, it appears to lower wages for unskilled workers only a tiny amount, and it might not lower them at all.

Why? There are theories, but as near as I can tell nobody really seems to know. Nonetheless, the evidence for a significant effect is pretty thin. If you want to argue against immigration from Mexico, you’re probably better off doing it on cultural and assimilationist grounds than in trying to torture the economic data to justify your position.

In any case, Lowenstein does a great job explaining both sides of the argument. If you want to understand what the economic debate is about, it’s well worth reading.