Tuesday, February 07, 2017

No, we don't need an immigration "pause".


I've been getting in arguments with immigration restrictionists for years now. The more reasonable restrictionists suggest that we need an immigration "pause" in order to assimilate the recent big wave of immigrants. They point to the Immigration Act of 1924 as an example, and suggest doing something similar today.

The argument is not implausible. Integration is important. When the citizens of a country view themselves through a tribal lens, it can be very hard to get important things done, and the country can become dysfunctional and - eventually - poor. In the past, America has done well at combining many disparate ethnicities - Irish, Germans, Italians, Jews, Greeks, Poles, etc. There's plenty of reason to believe that this is happening again, with the mostly Hispanic and Asian immigrants of the recent wave.

But there's an argument that we need to speed this process up, by pausing immigration. Without a pause, restrictionists say, the phenomenon of "replenished ethnicity" might keep Hispanic and Asian people feeling like "permanent foreigners" for decades, leading to tribalized politics and social strife. Only because we paused immigration in the past, they say, did we managed to integrate the previous waves.

That's not implausible, but I think a closer look at the history of U.S. immigration shows that past restrictions were not as important as many believe. Here, via Natalia Bronshtein, is a graph showing the history of U.S. immigration by source country. I've annotated the graph with some important events:



The things that stand out most are 1) the big pause in the early middle 20th century, and 2) the big waves in the early 1900s and late 1900s/early 2000s. The y-axis is in absolute numbers; in terms of percentages of the U.S. population, those two waves were about equally big. 

One thing you'll notice is that there was no pause in the 19th century. Despite big waves of anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiment, immigration was not banned and didn't halt. An exception was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, but this didn't affect the biggest waves of immigrants coming in at the time. 

But despite the fact that there was no pause and no ban, and despite the fact that Irish and German immigrants kept coming throughout the 1800s, immigrants from these countries integrated quite effectively into American society.

Another thing to notice is that when the big immigration restriction was enacted in 1924, immigration had already fallen substantially from its peak about 15 years earlier. The law was probably important, but maybe not as important as its fans think. I bet the Great Depression, which came just 5 years later,  and WW2, would have been almost as effective in keeping immigration low.

Also note that immigration had started increasing substantially well before the 1965 law that loosened official controls. The 1950s were a time of rapidly increasing immigration, despite the legal ban. Nor was the 1965 law change immediately followed by a trend break; immigration increased steadily, but didn't really explode until the 1990s.

This doesn't mean that laws don't have an effect - the Simpson-Mazzoli act, commonly known as "Reagan's amnesty," was followed by a surge in Mexican immigration (and even more that was undocumented, and not on this graph). But overall, most of the ups and downs seem to correspond to economic booms, busts, and wars rather than to U.S. government policy. 

So fans of the 1924 immigration restriction should rethink their understanding of history. Economic factors were probably just as important as laws in determining immigration levels.

Another important observation is that country-specific immigration booms all seem to end on their own. Irish and German immigration trickled off around the turn of the 20th century. Italian immigration experienced a short mini-boom after WW2, but never came close to regaining its previous levels. The Austro-Hungarian and Russian booms were short-lived, one-shot affairs.

Should we expect the Mexican boom to end similarly, on its own, without government controls? Yes. In fact, it already did end, at least a decade ago. It's done, finished, over, kaput:


More Mexicans are going back to Mexico than are coming in. Mexican immigration basically halted sometime in the 2000s and went into reverse. And yes, that includes illegal immigration, which has been negative since the Great Recession.

The Mexican Boom is done. The Hispanic Boom as a whole is not quite finished - Central Americans and Caribbeans continue to come in, though at a slower rate than before. But these are trickling off as well. 

As of now, the main source of immigration to the U.S. is Asian. Asian immigrants are expected to surpass Hispanics as the largest foreign-born population in the country by mid century, unless Trump or other leaders block Asians from entering.

So the fears of "replenished ethnicity" keeping the American population from integrating are, in my opinion, overdone. Immigration booms end on their own. The new immigrants don't come from the same places that the old ones did. There is, therefore, little danger that allowing continued immigration will put us in danger of tribal balkanization.


Updates

For a more in-depth post on this topic, see this by Lyman Stone. Most of the conclusions and points are fairly similar, but there's much more theory and data. 

57 comments:

  1. More Mexicans are going back to Mexico than are coming in. Mexican immigration basically halted sometime in the 2000s and went into reverse.

    FYI former Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Castañeda says this is only true if you include deportations, and that Mexicans are not voluntarily returning to Mexico. See his remarks here from about the 29:40 mark to about 34:00 https://youtu.be/X80vJFrnE5A?t=29m40s

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    1. Yep. Republicans think Obama let in a ton of illegal immigrants, but actually he choked off whatever the Great Recession didn't halt.

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    2. Illegal immigration is the problem we have not legal immigration and the new businesses immigrants get involved in don't add that much to our economy I'm talking grocery stores convenience stores etc illegals don't pay taxes use free services and try to collect anything they can for nothing. The immigrants who came here years ago assimilated into our society learned the language and became citizens these illegals are takers not assimilaters and the theory about them growing out economy is BS

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  2. Anonymous11:27 PM

    The rise of leftist identity politics against whites has rightly terrified them, and they've sensibly chosen to halt their own demographic demise to a group of voters that appears to actively hate them.

    There is no magic law that keeps the US safe from Balkanization, its only our belief in a shared national identity thats not dependent on race or creed. Identity politics puts this into question.

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    1. Pro-white and anti-white identity politics are both signs of balkanization. I've been seeing pro-white identity politics growing slowly my whole life - in the 90s in California with Pete Wilson and in Arizona with Joe Arpaio, in the 00s with the revolt against Bush's proposed amnesty, in Obama's first term with birtherism. People were trying to halt the inflow of non-white population long before SJW kids started dissing white people on Twitter. Anti-white identity politics seems like a much more recent thing, I don't recall seeing it much at all before the 2010s. Both are bad trends, I think. But pro-white identity politics seems like it came first, and it seems like a standard xenophobic freakout, just like the anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, and anti-German freakout of the 1800s.

      In any case, you're right that what we need is a shared national identity not based on race or creed. Everyone who works toward that is part of the solution.

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    2. Perhaps part of the problem is that you're conflating anti-illegal immigration with pro-white identity politics. There's a very large group of people who think that legal immigration is just fine, but illegal immigration is not, and this includes many non-white voters. To lump them all as "pro-white identity politics" is some lite form of anti-white identity politics on your own part.

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    3. Nah. Backlash against illegal immigration was always driven mainly by xenophobia. Ukrainian guy comes here illegally? Oh well. Mexican guy comes here illegally? People think he's bringing drugs, mooching off welfare, raping girls, whatever. Why? Because he's "other". Because Americans will take a while before Hispanic Americans are seen as just normal, everyday Americans.

      I'm not condemning the people who freak out with xenophobia when non-whites come in. The fear is unjustified, sure, but people have a right to be afraid of stuff. I just want to sooth the fear. Mexican Americans are just normal, everyday Americans.

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    4. These nonwhite immigrants were conservatives until you (xenophobic folk) pushed them to be against you: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-the-chinese-new-year-parade-was-super-queer-this-year_us_5898b7d0e4b0c1284f273a42

      Pro-white identity politics made a big mistake. Pushed away natural allies. There's still time to reverse course, but gotta give up mass hysteria and instinctive distrust of anyone non-white.

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    5. Anonymous11:56 AM

      How much of this anti-non-white immigration/illegal immigration is due to "appearance" - color of skin, hair/eye color, facial features, and how much is due to other factors ?

      What are the other factors, if any - cultural vocabulary, education levels, average wealth, level of participation in various American rituals ?

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    6. Where did the white identity politics come from? Democrats have been selling identity politics to all comers, offering them ethnic-based spoils system for a while now. Have you expected no response to it?

      Democrats wanted identity politics and now their dream stands fulfilled.

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    7. How much of this anti-non-white immigration/illegal immigration is due to "appearance" - color of skin, hair/eye color, facial features, and how much is due to other factors ?

      What are the other factors, if any - cultural vocabulary, education levels, average wealth, level of participation in various American rituals ?


      That's a good question. The backlash against Hispanics seems a lot less severe than the backlash against the Irish was in the 1800s, though maybe about the same as the backlash against Italians. So it's in line with historical backlashes. I suspect it's mostly neither racial nor cultural, but linguistic.

      The backlash against Muslims is more intense, maybe as intense as the backlash against Catholics in the 1800s. I suspect appearance, especially religious clothing, has a lot to do with it. Someone in religious clothing is conspicuously declaring that they're separate from others.

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    8. Where did the white identity politics come from?

      Some types of white identity politics have been around forever. In the South, much of it comes from the legacy of the Confederacy and Slavery. In other regions, anti-black politics is also old. But the new type of more virulent, generalized white identity politics we're now seeing is almost certainly a response to the fear of whites becoming an electoral minority.

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    9. "
      Because Americans will take a while before Hispanic Americans are seen as just normal, everyday Americans.
      "

      Because when the Okies moved to California and the Rust Belt exodus moved to Texas, those gringos weren't used to seeing the Hispanic Americans who had lived there for generations.

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    10. Anonymous9:38 PM

      Krzys , interesting, though I've heard about it. You'd say democrats, instead of equality of treatment, (which I'd assume you'd agree about), pushed differential treatment to include ethnic rituals and special treatment based on it. As long as it doesn't include anti - ethnic based discrimination, I might agree.
      What has been left uncovered is maybe about dress code, probably democrats left people exposed to the rigour of capitalism for whatever reason and some people perceived that only ethnic based discrimination was covered, example employers can ask a regular guy to cut his hair and beard, except if he's a sikh, the beard is covered by anti discrimination as a religious symbol, not sure about it. So instead of addressing all excess enforcement of dress codes, the protected people on ethnic base. What's the rationale for it? The employer creedence, wrong (often) or right, that a given setup makes customers more comfortable, the reason assumed can be the petties ones, but they are legitimized in the name of capitalism and freedom of competition and enterprise, but not if their reason is they aesthetically object a sikh beard, or even just the beard itself, the freedom to wear it is protected if one is sikh and not if one is whatever else, or even name good aesthetics beyond dress codes, like being phisically beautiful, as requirement. It basically opens another can of worms like capitalism being too raw to involve such levels of fairness. Basically one can be discarded if employers believe people are uncomfortable if they find you ugly even if that, like race, can't be controlled, but if it's not about race or religion, such bigotry is legitimized. Is this identity politics in a (now quite big) nutshell? Then I agree it has to be addressed, but more positively, not with liverishness toward such groups or even perceiving them as privileged.
      I know it might sound sjw but privilege is vectorial, complex, intersectionl and algebric, multi axed. Sjw's sound petty because of how they trivialize it in a male vs female, white vs black etc, often forgetting the stronger rich vs poor.

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    11. "[Y]ou're conflating anti-illegal immigration with pro-white identity politics. There's a very large group of people who think that legal immigration is just fine, but illegal immigration is not..."

      A few years ago there was an effort to revise the immigration laws to make it possible for people who are presently coming here illegally to come here legally instead. It seems to me that if one favors legal immigration, then this change to the laws was a good idea. The change the in the law would have resulted in less illegal immigration and more legal immigration, by offering those currently crossing the border illegally a chance to come in legally.

      Nevertheless, the pro-white identity politics position was to resist this proposed statutory revision. Until those who mouth the slogan "I favor legal immigration, but not illegal immigration" get behind statutory revisions to make legal immigration more convenient and plausible, I am going to have to conclude that what they really object to is immigration---full stop---not merely illegal immigration.

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  3. When I lived in the Boston area, the illegal immigrants were usually Irish or Portuguese. The Irish were fluent English speakers and often educated. The Portuguese were less so, but they had some really good food. You would have been pressed to point them out in a crowd though.

    I grew up in the 1960s, I don't remember any time when white identity politics wasn't a powerful force. Sure, it took some lumps in the 1960s and 1970s, but it was behind Nixon and later Reagan. It got a bit quieter under Clinton and a lot noisier under Obama. Now it has come roaring back, but it had never really gone away.

    Where I live, there are a lot of people who consider the Mayflower crowd arrivistes. I don't worry too much about the Elwha, they're pretty laid back, but the Jamestown S'Klallam are another matter. Let's hope they don't take this anti-immigration thing too far.

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    1. I agree. White identity politics has been on a long steady decline. Inter racial marriage is up. The concern over AA seems to be losing steam even though AA is pretty silly.

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  4. I agree that we could keep overall immigration at the current (high) level while reducing assimilation pressures. But I don't think you can go from there to a political acceptance of more immigration.

    This analysis assumes you can take historic responses to immigration and apply them now, but we are in a unique distributional crisis.

    At the moment, most of the gains from income growth are going to the top 1%. The bottom 50% get zero of the gain. So think of that as a type of zero bound, in the sense that when you are in this zero bound, there is no reason for a majority to support anything that increases per-capita income.

    In fact, they are right to oppose it, because any increases in income will lead to a greater disparity between the top and the bottom, leading to a bigger power differential in addition to zero gains for themselves For some the gains are actually negative. National good (when gains are shared) becomes a political bad (when they are not shared)

    Arguments that a high number of rich CEOs or inventors are immigrants aren't a sweetener -- why is being ruled over by a billionaire immigrant better than being ruled over by a billionaire who is native born? When the gains aren't shared, why should anyone care about immigrant CEOs?

    And the response -- "Well, it's all due to robots and trade, so sucks being you" -- is also really insulting. People legitimately feel that the elite has more solidarity with those abroad than with those at home. This lack of solidarity undermines everything else.

    It's a good strategy -- maybe the only strategy -- for the bottom to attack or block those things that the top does value. If I was in the bottom 50%, that's what I'd do: set fire to everything else until my crisis was solved.

    This is why you can't have nice things like immigration.

    I don't think that any technocratic response that ignores this solidarity problem, like taking some immigrants out of one pool and putting them into another to decrease the Herfindahl-Hirschman index -- is going to work. Frankly, it seems really tone deaf.

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    1. Anonymous9:42 PM

      I agree, but sounds quite marxist from them the "reserve army" anyone. I just don't get how voting a hatemongering billionare would be a response, though.

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  5. valar841:39 PM

    You omit the reality of qualitative differences between the waves of immigrants in the 19th and early 20th century and immigrants today. The context is completely different.

    In the 19th century:
    1- Most of the continental USA is largely uninhabited. Most immigrants go live in rural areas, only a few communities choose to live in major cities like New York and Boston, where they create frictions with established communities.

    2- Most immigrants come from a variety of European nations, speaking a variety of different languages but sharing a common "Western" base to their own cultures. They quickly abandon their home language in favor of English, either because they are submerged in English-speaking communities or because English is the go-to neutral language for communities of people who speak a myriad of other languages.

    3- There is little to no social welfare net, People are forced to participate in the economy and in their communities to make a living.

    4- Native fertility rates are quite high. The children of immigrants are thus often submerged into cohorts of children of their own age from the established population, favoring the integration of the second generation to a great extent.

    5- The reality of transport and communication meant that immigrants to America were effectively cut off from their home country. Cut off from their original culture, they are forced to develop their own, based on what they remember from their home country and what they gain through contact with their fellow American citizens, the perfect conditions for a "melting pot".

    Today

    1- Most of the US that's worth inhabiting is inhabited. Immigrants now move mostly to large metropolitan areas, where they enter into competition with established communities for housing, jobs and infrastructure.

    2- Immigration is more diversified, coming from cultures that are often more dissimilar than the dominant American culture. Hispanic cultures have more similarity, but Hispanic immigration is largely Spanish-speaking, and in large numbers can come to make English optional in certain locales.

    3- There are social welfare programs and social services that make it less essential for immigrants to participate in the economy and in the community at large. Government assistance has reduced reliance on one's community for one's livelihood.

    4- Native fertility rates are pretty low. Which means that the children of immigrants, where integration really happens, are less and less likely to frequent schools where the children of established American families are the majority or even a plurality. Without close, everyday contact between second generation American children and third or more generation American children, cultural mixing and integration becomes less likely.

    5- With the internet and modern transport, immigrants remain in much closer contact with their home country. It isn't rare for example to go to Chinese or Indian restaurants nowadays and see newspapers from China or India and the television playing Chinese or Indian shows. People do not have to interact with their neighbors anymore, they are free to withdraw from local communities for digital ones.

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    1. The point about land is a good one. In the early 1800s, the Pennsylvania Dutch could move out to their own farms and nobody cared. That was probably over by the 1880s, though.

      About language, I think lots of people have worried about America becoming a bilingual nation, but evidence shows it isn't happening - all the Hispanic people are switching to English.

      The point about welfare I don't think is a good one. Very few immigrants live off welfare. A large number run small businesses, which makes them reliant on their communities. A better argument is that because the U.S. is a much richer place, communities in general - whether homogeneous or diverse - are not nearly as close-knit or mutually reliant as in the past. None of us need our neighbors as much as we used to, be those neighbors white or otherwise.

      The fertility rate thing just means that the percentages we're measuring with pretty charts like this one aren't quite right, and we should be looking only at numbers of young people. HOWEVER, you should realize that now, with Hispanic immigration largely over, most immigrants are Asian, and Asian immigrants have LOWER fertility rates than native-born Americans.

      As for the final point, I don't think this is turning out to matter much. Children of immigrants lose basically all contact with their parents' home countries, TV and the internet notwithstanding.

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    2. Regarding language, overall, I'm sure it's true, but given the size of the demographic change in certain Californian cities, that might not necessarily be true everywhere, especially if California starts allowing Spanish public schools. And apparently Spanish is the mother tongue of a majority of people in Los Angeles, they'll maybe learn English, but whether they'll use it everyday in their community is more dubious.

      Wealth explains part of the lack of need for community reliance, but I think social welfare explains another part of it.

      Regarding the rates for the young, I've compiled some data from the last Census (2013), available here:
      http://www.census.gov/data/tables/2013/demo/foreign-born/cps-2013.html

      If you look at generation distribution, third generation Americans seem to be pretty stable overall, and the bottom is not among the very young, but among the 35 to 39, because most immigrants tend to arrive between 25 and 25, I'm guessing.
      http://imgur.com/zvrvYSa

      However, if you exclude First Generation Americans from the data to find out the proportion of US-born residents of America who were the children of immigrants, the results are more telling:
      http://imgur.com/eYGPK57

      Currently, nearly 25% of US-born 0- to 4-year-olds are Second Generation Americans, versus 15% of 25- to 29-year-olds and 6% of 55- to 59-year-olds. The very old have a higher proportion at 15%, but at that point, I don't know if life expectancy differences may create distortions in the data. That's a problem of using current data to peer into the past.

      This is also for the country at large, the proportion is likely much higher for metropolitan areas.

      FTR, Canada's proportion of 2nd gen Canadian among the Canadian-born is higher, it's 29% for the 0 to 15, versus 23% for America. But then again, it's often understood that apart from Québec and the Maritimes, there is no strong local culture in Canada, as Trudeau said "there is no mainstream in Canada". However, Canada's immigration is pure cream-skimming, 60% of adult immigrants have university degrees, only 9% have no high school diploma.That makes Canada's immigrants not very diverse in terms of socioeconomic status and education.

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    3. Did you read the post by Lyman Stone that I linked to at the end of my post? He echoes the worry that Spanish will become a second language in the U.S., leading to permanent cultural divisions, and recommends a Mexico-specific immigration reduction to avert this. If I thought this had any real chance of happening, I'd also be worried. But as the Pew data (and Stone's own data) show, it's a moot point; Hispanic immigration is basically over and done. Current immigration is mainly an Asian polyglot.

      I don't know much about Canadian culture, having never lived there, so I can't speak to that comparison.

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    4. Anonymous12:55 PM

      Even as an immigration skeptic language is the one thing I'm not worried about at all. English is so dominant that I'm not sure it can ever be dethroned without some sort of catastrophic war.

      I know you're not a believer of this, but I worry about admitting immigrants from low IQ ethnic groups. Not that I don't think these people are worthy of equal moral consideration, but I'm afraid they'll form a permanent underclass to American whites and Asians that will lead to long term bitterness and social strife.

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    5. Hispanic immigration is not over and done. It's a local condition. If the US economy starts growing stronger, it will quickly bounce back up.

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    6. I know you're not a believer of this, but I worry about admitting immigrants from low IQ ethnic groups.

      I do think that the "low IQ groups" thing is mostly a defense mechanism to allay fear that other groups of men are stronger and more masculine. "They're more muscly, so they must be dumber, so I still have a chance with the ladies," etc.

      But more to the point, with selective immigration we can take only smart people if we like, regardless of race. Check this out: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2015-10-13/it-isn-t-just-asian-immigrants-who-excel-in-the-u-s-

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    7. Do people seriously believe in "low IQ ethnic groups"? Or is Anonymous just trolling?

      What has been shown is that diversity is inherently beneficial. I recommend _The Difference_ by Scott Page.

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  6. "The current controversy over linking immigration to terrorism in the U.S. ignores the fact that extremist ideology flows freely across national borders regardless of immigration controls."
    http://soufangroup.com/tsg-intelbrief-the-real-terror-threat-to-the-united-states/#pq=Or9gKf

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  7. Immigration is great.

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  8. Anonymous6:59 PM

    So Noah, do you think we are in an area of increasing returns to scale? Don't you think traffic congestion is bad enough already?
    If you don't oppose illegal immigration, is it your belief that we should admit anyone who can make it to our borders? Should we elect to provide generous medical care and welfare to any who can transport themselves here, or should we let illegal immigrants starve or die on the street for lack of proper medical care?
    If you think people from less developed countries have the same behavior norms as 'normal Americans' you have not been around very many of them.

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    1. So Noah, do you think we are in an area of increasing returns to scale? Don't you think traffic congestion is bad enough already?

      I do. I don't think NYC needs any more people; in fact, overcrowdedness is one of the main reasons I moved away from there, despite the fact that it was a friendly, low-crime place.

      The places that need more immigrants to revive their local economies, are struggling regions in the Midwest. Skilled immigrants are especially important for these places. Hopefully Trump will switch us to a Canada-style system so we can get a lot more skilled immigrants, to help revive the Rust Belt.


      If you don't oppose illegal immigration, is it your belief that we should admit anyone who can make it to our borders? Should we elect to provide generous medical care and welfare to any who can transport themselves here, or should we let illegal immigrants starve or die on the street for lack of proper medical care?

      I'm morally fine with kicking out illegal immigrants, but I don't put a high priority on it, especially not now that illegal immigrants are going BACK on net. It's just not a problem that needs solving right now, so why worry about it?

      If you think people from less developed countries have the same behavior norms as 'normal Americans' you have not been around very many of them.

      In grad school, I had a lot of friends from Indonesia and Thailand. Some of the finest human beings I've ever met. I wish more Americans could be like those folks! They're a great influence. And they love this country. And now Bannon is threatening to kick them out. What a fucking travesty.

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    2. The places that need more immigrants to revive their local economies, are struggling regions in the Midwest. Skilled immigrants are especially important for these places. Hopefully Trump will switch us to a Canada-style system so we can get a lot more skilled immigrants, to help revive the Rust Belt.

      The Rust belt had lots of skilled people until the factories closed. It is the leaving of the businesses that create the low skills and pathology, not the increase in low skills that forces businesses to leave.

      This idea that you can take professionals and just by dumping them all into one area they will spontaneously self-organize into firms that
      create good employment for them doesn't really hold up. It assumes the worst kind of autarky that economics is ridiculed for. Maybe we can call it the theory of immaculate industrialization.

      Shipping lots of engineers into Gary, Indiana isn't going to create an auto industry or a tech industry in Gary, Indiana. It will create overqualified uber drivers and waiters in Gary, Indiana, who will eventually migrate out and head to New York or Silicon Valley because that's where the agglomeration of high paying engineering jobs is. The jobs are not going to move to them. We've had a concentration of Finance and Publishing jobs in New York for what -- 200 years now? They still remain concentrated. Dumping lots of bankers into Iowa isn't going to create a financial industry in Iowa. It will create a moving industry as those people struggle to get to NY.

      I think this is one area where simplistic thinking really hurts the cause. An industrial eco-system is a complex web of entrepeneurs, firms, credit-relationships, training resources, customer relationships, a whole host of support industries, and of course, talented people. It is an eco-system -- when you move people out of that eco-system and into a new environment, you don't get a second copy of the eco-system for free. 100 jaguars dumped into Siberia results in dead jaguars, not a new jungle. This obsession with skilled people and ignorance of all the rest is a way of blaming people for the lack of jobs as well as proposing very easy answers to what are complex problems. The reality is that we don't really know what is necessary to create these eco-systems. What we do know is attempts to engineer these generally fail.

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    3. Another point -- we don't have a shortage of high skilled jobs in the country, we have a shortage of solidarity. Telling everyone who's poor that they need to learn finance or programming is crazy. Those jobs are never going to be enough -- maybe if we were Luxembourg, it could work, but not for the U.S.

      There is a small picture problem with outsourcing causing us to lose productive eco-systems entirely -- e.g. the collapse of Detroit. But this is against a backdrop that increasing return industries don't require that many people to begin with. Detroit was, even at its peak, not responsible for enough jobs. Middle america was wealthier in the past because the guy who mowed the lawn didn't make much less than the aerospace engineer. They lived next to each other. CEOs didn;t make much more than their workers. That's why middle america was middle class, not because they were more educated or more talented.

      Today, there is a huge dispersion while at the same time high income people isolate themselves away from everyone else and let the rest of the country rot.

      Is immigration going to reduce our solidarity deficit? I doubt it, and it may well increase it especially given the notion that the working class is to blame for their problems because they are just mowing lawns instead of running hedgefunds or developing apps.

      http://dailycaller.com/2017/02/08/bill-kristol-says-lazy-white-working-class-should-be-replaced-by-new-americans/


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    4. The way you get skilled immigrants to move to a place is with universities. Universities already underpin the local economies of many small towns and cities in the Midwest and South: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-02-08/trump-s-immigration-clampdown-hurts-the-heartland

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    5. The question is not how to get them to move, but how do high paying spontaneously generate, like rats out of trash, just because there are some skilled people in an area. You will have skilled immigrants serving coffee.

      And the larger question is why must everyone learn to code in order to have a decent life? That's never going to work. Even if everyone got a PhD tomorrow, we would have the same shitty jobs, just done by people with PhDs.

      So fix the solidarity problem with people who have low pay. Even if you don't care about them at all, just give them a lot of money because the things you do care about, such as immigration, aren't going to happen until the people who are already here have their needs addressed.

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    6. Anonymous10:03 AM

      In other words, we really have an institutional issue (the very things economists are notoriously bad at).

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    7. Skilled people figure out how to generate high paying jobs. It's entrepreneurship. Also, labor unions. Manufacturing isn't inherently a high paying job; it was high paying because the workers forced the employers to pay a vaguely reasonable wage.

      Education is not about just coding and finance. Education is about acquiring a background that will help you in whatever you decide to do, and it's about giving you more choices.

      After the singularity comes and everyone can be replaced by a robot, it will be a status symbol for the 0.1% to hire humans for certain tasks like cooking and massage. When they hire a chef, they're going to want someone who really understands what they are doing. Someone who has studied the subject deeply.

      The jobs are not coding and finance. The jobs are design jobs. Can you design a bacterium that produces a desirable molecule? How do you alter the genes of an oak tree to get madrone coloring? Can you alter the genes of the tree so that it sinks it's roots down deeper to survive drought better?

      There's fashion design. There's art. There's content production. Doing these well requires things like psychology and cultural studies.

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  9. Noah, we are at 7 1/2 billion people now and the UN is thinking we'll have ~ 11 billion by 2100. How many people can the West absorb? For how long can immigration be the solution and not the problem? Surely there must be some upper limit.

    As to Mexicans, Mexico is a failed democracy and a failed culture. The Mexicans know this, so they leave. Isn't it rational to worry that if you bring too many folk in from such a society all at once, so there is no time for assimilation, they may harm the local culture and democracy?

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    1. Noah, we are at 7 1/2 billion people now and the UN is thinking we'll have ~ 11 billion by 2100. How many people can the West absorb? For how long can immigration be the solution and not the problem? Surely there must be some upper limit.

      Good question, but given our abundant resources and unusually low population density, I'd say we're not there yet.

      As to Mexicans, Mexico is a failed democracy and a failed culture. The Mexicans know this, so they leave. Isn't it rational to worry that if you bring too many folk in from such a society all at once, so there is no time for assimilation, they may harm the local culture and democracy?

      First of all, if this is true, why have Mexicans on net gone BACK to Mexico over the past decade? Why are they no longer coming in? Why do they say, in that survey that I linked to, that Mexico's situation is good?

      Also, lots of our best immigrants came from failed states, many of which were a lot worse off than Mexico.

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    2. The U.S. has 30 people per square kilometer. China has 140. Many european nations have in excess of 200. So arguably, the U.S. could support 5 to 10 times as many people: 1.5 billion to 3 billion.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_States
      From 1900 to 2000, the U.S. population increased from 76 million to 281 million, a factor of 3.7. If the population increased by the same factor this century, we would get to 1.2 billion. However, the actual rate of population growth (including births and immigrants) these days is quite a bit lower than the average of the last century. At current rates, we might hit 600 million by the end of this century.

      So immigration isn't going to be the problem this century.

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    3. Cryptandra9:36 AM

      "Good question, but given our abundant resources and unusually low population density, I'd say we're not there yet." Compared to the sardine tins of China and India maybe, but who wants to live in a sardine tin? I'd prefer 100 million less Americans than we already have and a couple million more bison.

      Delete
  10. Tribal balkanization seems to be doing quite well, irrespective of immigration.

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    1. Before the 2016 election I thought it had been getting a lot better...

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  11. "in terms of percentages of the U.S. population, those two waves were about equally big." Actually--no. The 1907 rate (abt 1.3 percent) was twice the rate of the 1991 (abt .6 percent). Immigration right before the 1924 act was about 2.5 times the rate of 1929.

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  12. Why did immigrants from the 19th century wave integrate so successfully?
    Did the anti-immigrant sentiment have anything to do with the incentive to assimilate? Related question: What happened to all the German press of 1910?

    Finally, do the conditions right now favor assimilation of the new arrivals?

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    1. Why did immigrants from the 19th century wave integrate so successfully?

      Because they had a lot of time, and no official discrimination against them.

      Did the anti-immigrant sentiment have anything to do with the incentive to assimilate?

      Good question. Hard to say. In many countries there is anti-minority sentiment that keeps minorities from assimilating. In America, intermarriage has been a big part of the integration process, and I assume that negative sentiment will prevent that. So anti-immigrant sentiment does seem quite counterproductive, in that sense.

      Related question: What happened to all the German press of 1910?

      It was mostly already gone. I believe the Pennsylvania Dutch still speak German, though!

      Finally, do the conditions right now favor assimilation of the new arrivals?

      Until the election of Trump, they did. We had a relatively free economy, free mobility, high intermarriage rates, and no official discrimination. I do worry that Trump could flip over that apple cart.

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    2. Another: "Related question: What happened to all the German press of 1910?"

      Noah: "It was mostly already gone. I believe the Pennsylvania Dutch still speak German, though!"

      IMHO it was ended by WWI - german-speakers had to be careful then.

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  13. Anonymous4:27 PM

    You're right that the Great Depression and World War II eventually made an equally big difference, but remember that the "Emergency Quota Act" of 1921 was largely responsible for cutting immigration prior to 1924. (It wasn't falling quite as organically as you make it sound.)

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    1. It peaked in 1909, and started falling at a pretty steady clip after that.

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  14. David4:55 PM

    How do people measure integration/assimilation?

    What groups integrate(d) faster/more completely? Does education level impact it?

    It seems to me that there are both benefits and costs to low-skill immigration, but that high skill immigration is about as completely a win-win as you can think of.

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    1. How do people measure integration/assimilation?

      You can measure objective things like language, military participation, and geographic location. You can also measure subjective things like surveying people about their identity, or surveying people about whether they'd mind their kids marrying someone of that group, etc. To me, the number 1 measure is intermarriage.

      What groups integrate(d) faster/more completely? Does education level impact it?

      As far as we can tell, Hispanics and Asians are assimilating pretty quick, compared to previous waves:
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/01/28/hispanic-immigrants-are-assimilating-just-as-quickly-as-earlier-groups/?utm_term=.0ae1b2ad974c

      Intermarriage is probably a huge part of this. Hispanics and Asians outmarry at very large rates:

      http://blogs.voanews.com/all-about-america/2016/03/07/mixed-marriages-causing-us-hispanics-asians-to-integrate-faster/

      As for Muslims, I've only seen a little info about them, but at the end of this post I give a few links:

      http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2016/11/steve-bannon-and-new-crusade.html

      Regarding whether more educated immigrants integrate faster, my guess would be yes (which is good news, since our immigration has become more educated in recent years), but I don't have data to back that up.

      It seems to me that there are both benefits and costs to low-skill immigration, but that high skill immigration is about as completely a win-win as you can think of.

      Agree 100%.

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  15. Why doesn't the US have a massive push to clean energy? That will create a lot of jobs to benefit all parts of the country, especially Trump's blue collar supporters. This will fulfill Trump's campaign promise to be the "best jobs president" ever, and quite possibly one of the best presidents ever. That will be the biggest irony of the US history.

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  16. As incoherent and vulgar as Trump is, he got a few things right. Policy and politicians have done a lot of harm to US manufacturing. Politicians have failed the working people, especially in the mid west. US infrastructure is crumbling. The countries with big trade surplus with US are stealing US jobs. Something has to be done to balance trade.

    With US in such bad shape, I'm puzzled why people still want to come here...

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  17. Looks like immigration from Canada has been fairly persistent over a couple of centuries. Seems plausible that our neighbor Mexico might be more like our neighbor Canada than it is like Germany.

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  18. I wonder if the "pause" idea is borrowed from climate-change denialists' claim of a "pause" in warming in the 2000s? The rhetorical function is similar.

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  19. Anonymous2:11 AM

    The graph implies the U.S. is becoming unattractive again in 2013.

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