By Arnold Kling
On the issue of poverty and immigration, which Robert J. Samuelson raised, I would ask, “Where would you prefer that people be poor?” That is, do we want to insist that poor Hispanics should remain in their native countries, because we want to make our own national statistics on health insurance coverage and poverty look better?
One can argue that we do not want poor immigrants coming to this country and competing with established citizens for jobs. However, in our globalized world, our established citizens are going to feel competition from foreigners, whether those foreigners immigrate or not.
In my view, economists have to be relatively favorable toward immigration, just as we have to be relatively favorable to free trade in general. It’s our job to lean against xenophobia.
UPDATE: Joel Kotkin writes,
All told, European immigration to the United States jumped by some 16 percent during the 1990s. Europe’s percentage of total immigrants to the U.S. rose crisply between 1998 and 2001. Visa applications dropped after 9/11, but then increased last year by 10 percent. The total number of European-born Americans increased by roughly 700,000 during the last three years, with a heavy inflow from the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, Romania, and France.
…St. Louis is another city that has benefited enormously from European immigration–in its case, the growth of a Bosnian community now estimated at well over 10,000. Since the Bosnians’ appearance on the city’s south side, they have transformed their neighborhoods. South Grand Avenue, once a dying thoroughfare, has been turned by entrepreneurial-minded newcomers into a major center of Bosnian commerce. In typical American style, the community is gradually spreading to the city’s sprawling suburbs.
Kotkin concludes with a note that should be filed under “revealed preference.”
Beneath the European hostility toward America stirred up by 9/11 and the Afghan and Iraq wars, a much deeper verdict on the United States is being rendered by hundreds of thousands of individual Europeans. These men and women, some of their continent’s most energetic residents, are uprooting themselves for brand new lives in America.
Further update: on the topic of immigration and wages, see this post from Chris Dillow from awhile back.