The Corner


Two New Studies on Immigration

Both published through the National Bureau of Economic Research, both highly noteworthy:

The first, one of whose co-authors is Harvard’s George Borjas (an immigration economist who tends to argue that competition drives down wages), uses a historical database on advertised job openings that has never been applied to the immigration issue before. Focusing on Miami, it finds that the “Help Wanted Index” sank following inflows of Cuban immigrants in the early 1960s, the early 1980s, and the mid 1990s. (Borjas himself arrived with the early-60s wave.) The paper also features an analysis across metro areas, finding that “more immigration is associated with fewer job vacancies,” likely concentrated among the lower-skilled.

The second, one of whose co-authors is Giovanni Peri (a frequent Borjas sparring partner who disputes the immigrants-drive-down-wages narrative), focuses on the political impact of immigration. It finds that “an increase in [high-skilled] immigrants decreases the share of the Republican vote, while an inflow of [low-skilled immigrants] increases it.” (To be “high-skilled” by the authors’ definition, one needs only a high-school degree; there is no level between “high” and “low” in this framework.) The pro-Republican effects are strongest in heavily low-skill and non-urban counties.

“Combining the two effects,” the authors write, “the net impact of the increased immigrant share on the average U.S. county was negative for the Republican Party between 1990 and 2010.” They argue that their results are not mainly about immigrants themselves voting for Democrats when they become eligible, but about how immigrants affect the preferences of existing voters.

I profiled Borjas, and used Peri as his foil, for The American Conservative early last year.

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