The Corner

Politics & Policy

Country of Origin Matters

Jeremy Carl already noted some of the statistics from Steven Camarota and his colleagues at CIS, but I wanted to post some tables, demonstrating how the national origin of immigrants does matter. This doesn’t mean any given immigrant from a certain place is going to have a hard time here. It doesn’t mean that any of the immigrants who are poor or on means-tested government programs are bad people. What it mostly means is that education matters a lot, and that immigrants who tend to be poorly educated are going to struggle and there are clear patterns based on national origin.

Countries that are close enough to send desperate migrants, including illegal immigrants, look much worse; this is why the numbers for Central America and Mexico are so poor. Countries like Germany, Japan, and Canada sending people who have more wherewithal look much better. It’s worth noting that in these tables Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa are not the worst by any means, probably reflecting how we are able to skim doctors, nurses, and students from these countries and how it takes some resources for them to get over here in the first place. This is why Trump’s statements were overly simplistic — it’s not the s***holes that matter most, it’s who we are getting from the s***holes.

Finally, none of this can determine the value question central to our immigration debate — should immigration to the U.S. fundamentally be about the interests of the immigrants (in which case you don’t care so much about these outcomes, since the immigrants themselves are better off than in their home countries), or should it the interests of the United States (in which case, you are going to want to put more emphasis on skills). I’m in the latter camp.

Here is the poverty rate by country of origin:

Here is language skills:

Here is use of welfare:

It all tracks pretty strongly with levels of education:

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