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Entries in Immigration (4)


Immigration Policy is Making US Insane

The parable goes like this:  If you offer a Russian anything they want, with the proviso that whatever they pick their neighbor will get twice as much, the Russian will say:  "Put one of my eyes out".  

According to this piece in the NY Times today, the parable should be revised to read:  "If you offer an American...".

The article argues convincingly that we underfund education because we want to ensure that children of immigrants are not the beneficiaries of our educational system.  We are committed enough to this idea that we are willing to sacrifice the education of our own children in order to accomplish it.  That is some extreme protectionism.

There is no question that immigration policy is a very complex issue with many variables.  Just read this paper by the UN's Social and Economic Affairs group on the relationship between policy reform and income distribution and you will gain a new appreciation for the complexity.  For a quicker reference, here is a link to the CIA World Factbook's list of income distribution showing that of the 134 nations on the list we are 45th from the end that is most polarized (Namibia) and a long way from the least polarized (Sweden).

I put in these two reference points because I still think of our country as the land of opportunity.  America is the place people want to go when they want to improve their lives through hard work -- not through a free ride.  We hear often these days that our current policy changes are socialist, and maybe they are, but we are a long way from the socialist end of the income distribution curve and our recent willingness to let the hand outs go to those that don't need them only pushes us more towards the rich get richer model.

We want our economy to grow.  In order to have growth we need immigration.  Highly skilled people want to move here (for now at least) -- so let them in.  Along the way some not so skilled people will get in too -- that is also going to work out for us in the end.

Here is a link to the posts in this blog tagged Immigration.  There you will find the numbers on Immigration showing that we have strayed from our roots and our immigration rate is well below where it has been in the past.  should loosen immigration policy.


The Story of Angelo

Last night we went to a great Italian restaurant on our last night in New York City.  Angelo was our waiter and he did a great job.  We got to talking with him and found that he is a first generation immigrant, working while going to community college.  His dream is to work at the United Nations as a translator.  Because of our conversation, I now know that you must have mastered five languages in order to apply.  Angelo already has four, so just one to go.  A full third of our immigrants are Hispanic and despite the fact that I believe we are as open minded about race as any nation – I suspect that anti Hispanic sentiment is a significant barrier to our opening up immigration.  The twist to this story – Angelo is from Ecuador.  


Australia's Numbers

Along with all of the coverage of the great recession we have also seen a good deal of coverage of the countries that have escaped relatively unscathed.  The one that keeps catching my eye is Australia.  The 22 million people in Australia have been faring pretty well through these difficult years.  Phil Dobbie has a good piece on Bnet about it.  He cites China as a reason, along with Australian banker sanity.  One other key number is immigration.  Australia is attracting alot of immigration -- 1.3% immigration in the year ending march 2009.  I wrote a post about our immigration numbers the other day -- we currently allow .37% immigration.  Australia's current level of immigration is about the same as we had during our peak immigration year in 1907.  Ever since then we have thought the American experience a little too good to share with very many others.

Australia had enough immigration that their GDP per capita fell slighly during the recession.  So is a country, and by extension its people, better off if it achieves overall growth but at the sacrifice of GDP per capita?  I suspect not if it is sustained trend, but for a few years it probably works.  Here are some other interesting numbers from the CIA Factbook.

Australia GDP per Capita: $38,500 (23rd) -- the US: $46,400 (11th)

Australia Income Distribution:  Rank 110 out of 134 or 23rd best score -- the US: 43 out of 134 or 91st place.

It is not clear to me how to convert the income distribution numbers into a meaningful real world number, but considering how close together the GDP per capita numbers are and how far apart the income distribution numbers are, I would guess there is a pretty good chance that if you take out our hedge fund managers, and put military spending back to a rational level, the average person in Australia is probably better off than the average person in the US. 

One of these days I will have to go and check that place out.


Immigration Numbers

To answer those that say immigration is at an all time high, here are the numbers.  The immigration numbers are from the Migration Policy Institute and the population numbers are from the US Census.  I am sure there are immigration numbers in the census, but I could not find them.  If anyone wants to point me to them I will remake the charts.

The short story is that annual immigration hit 1.285 million people in 1907 -- which at the time was 1.5% of the population, and then declined all of the way down to .02% of the population in 1933 and did not exceed the 1907 number until 1990 when we hit 1.535 million people.  By then the country had grown enough to make that only 0.62% of the population.  In 2002, the last year for which I found data, we settled in at about 1 million people per year or .37% of the population.