The Corner

Immigration and Economic Self-Interest

A recent study says that if all illegal immigrants in the U.S. left or were removed, our economy would be $500 billion smaller every year. I write about why that study doesn’t tell us much about what to do about illegal immigration at Bloomberg View:

If we want to figure out whether deporting illegal immigrants would hurt our economic interests, we might want to know what it would do to the total size of the U.S. economy. That’s relevant to questions about the size of our tax base, for example. But what we most want to know is the effect their removal would have on the incomes of everyone else: that is, of native-born Americans and legal immigrants.

The study doesn’t answer that question. Nor does it examine how important subsets of those groups, such as those without college degrees, would fare.

It’s not unusual for research on the economic effects of immigration to have this blind spot. . . 

George Borjas, the distinguished scholar of immigration economcis, made a similar point about illegal immigrants in 2013: “[T]heir contribution to overall GDP is substantial, increasing national income by between $395 and $472 billion, but much of this increase (between $386 and $462 billion) is remitted to the illegal immigrants themselves as payment for their services.”

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