Politics & Policy

The Corner

Immigration and the Economy

At first glance, a new study seems to suggest that halving legal immigration levels would be bad news for the economy–causing 4.6 million jobs to be lost by 2040. At Bloomberg View, I explain why at second glance, the numbers are actually reassuring.

By 2040, the model projects that the U.S. economy will include 4.6 million fewer jobs because of reduced immigration. But over that same period, we will have brought in around nine million fewer immigrants. By itself, this does not suggest that the job prospects for the American legal residents of 2040 will have worsened much because of the bill. They may even have improved because of it: The study says that “the domestic worker participation rate won’t increase enough to fill the jobs that would have been held by immigrants who are no longer allowed in the country,” which is an oblique and grudging way of acknowledging that it will increase.

This kind of misleading economic statistic is a recurring feature of the immigration debate.

While I’m on the subject of immigration: The other day I mentioned a Morning Consult/Politico poll in which 48 percent of people favored halving legal immigration levels and 39 percent opposed it. I should note than a recent Economist/YouGov poll reached a different conclusion, finding 42 percent opposition and 37 percent support. My guess is that the wording of each poll made a difference: The Morning Consult/Politico poll noted that the halving would take place “over a decade,” which probably made people more comfortable with it; the Economist/YouGov poll placed a heavy emphasis on the word “legal,” which probably made people less comfortable with it.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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