This post is not about open borders; it’s about the need for dramatically higher rates of immigration. Let’s consider three objections:
1. The impact on US workers.
What impact? Why should more immigration cost jobs? The unemployment rate Canada is 7.1% and Australia’s unemployment is 5.7%. The US has 9 times as many people as Canada, and 14 times as many as Australia. That’s a huge difference in the number of immigrants we’ve let in, and yet our unemployment rate is only 5.0%. If we went to having 10 or 11 times as many people as Canada, would we suddenly have lots more unemployment? I don’t see why.
Another argument is that immigration has disproportionately hurt the wages of low skilled workers. Hmmm, that must be why so many conservatives object—a sudden concern with the welfare of the poor. In fairness, this argument may have a bit of merit, which is why we might want to consider adjusting the mix of immigrants so that the average skill level of immigrants is comparable to the current US population.
2. The groups we are letting in are inferior to the native population.
The largest group of immigrants now come from Asia. In America, average household income is $49,800. For Asian Americans it’s $66,000. Some argue that this is misleading, as only certain Asian groups do well, like Japanese and Chinese Americans. Actually, both those groups have median family incomes of below $66,000. Filipinos (the Hispanics of East Asia) and Indians do far better.
Much faster population growth would lead to much more housing construction, as well as infrastructure construction. More need for Trump Towers, for rich Asians (are you listening Donald?) More jobs for blue collar workers. The zero bound on interest rates would probably go away, making recessions less likely.
3. The groups we are letting in support big government.
How do we know this? Again, Asians are now the biggest immigrant group (in flow terms, not stock), and in almost all Asian countries the government’s share of GDP is smaller than in the US, often far smaller. In fairness, that’s partly because developing countries normally have low G/GDP ratios. But what makes Asia unique is that even the wealthy East Asian countries have low G/GDP ratios. In most US states, the top income tax rate is higher than in Communist China.
And why do we assume their views are carved in stone? Didn’t lots of the white immigrant groups switch from Democrat to Republican during the 1970s and 1980s? Things change. I know “red Chinese” who have become “red-voting Americans.”
I’m not saying that our current system is perfect, far from it. I’d like much higher rates of immigration (3 million a year is a good start) and a better balance of skilled and unskilled, so that the people at the bottom in America are not bearing the brunt of the competition for jobs. As a practical matter, my proposal would skew the immigrant mix even more towards Asia. However, I’m perfectly happy with immigrants from other areas as well; ethnicity should not be the criterion we use to decide who gets in. And certainly not religion.
PS. Here’s the IMF data on government spending as a share of GDP, for 2014 (we don’t get many immigrants from Japan):
S. Korea 20.7%
Hong Kong 17.3%
PPS. If we allowed immigration at levels equal to 1% of the US population, it would allow the US to surpass China in total popuation in about 100 years, when their population is expected to have fallen back to 750 million. We would again become the world’s largest economy. Let’s make America’s economy a great big one again.
India? No chance of passing them; in 2116 India will have vastly more people than either the US or China. And a bigger GDP.