Looking Out the Window: Costs and Benefits of Immigrants, Yard Sale Edition
By Art Carden
We got together with some neighbors last month and held a yard sale. A good number of our customers were Spanish-speaking immigrants. Co-blogger Bryan Caplan discusses research suggesting that more immigrants make for higher real estate values in the Cato Journal. They don’t only raise demand for real estate, they also raise demand for the flotsam and jetsam of day-to-day living like toys, books, clothes, cooking utensils, furniture and other stuff. I learn two lessons from this:
First, if we’re going to have a robust accounting for the costs and benefits of immigrants, we have to account for the increase in the value of our assets because of immigration.
Second (and related), Mike Munger asks a very important question in this EconTalk Podcast, this featured article, and this issue of Cato Unbound: is it garbage, or is it a resource? If you have to pay people to haul it to a dump, it’s garbage. In my experience, there are a lot of things in American houses that are right on the margin between being garbage and being resources. More immigration will, I expect, turn a lot of garbage into new resources.
This carries with it another prediction: we would see more recycling if we let in a lot more immigrants. If you wake up early enough in the morning on garbage day, you probably see people driving around in trucks looking for stuff on curbs that can be reused or recycled. Usable wood furniture, for example, it’s going to stay on the curb long enough for the garbage truck to get to it. With more low-skill immigrants, I expect that would eventually come to be true about a lot of other things that are relatively easy to recycle or repair and re-use but that get passed over by American recyclers today.