Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Illegal immigration only costs the poor a little

The New York Times recently had a fascinating article, "Costs of illegal immigration may be less than meets the eye." Not being qualified, I won't comment on the econometrics; but it does seem plausible that illegal immigration has had a 5% or less negative impact on poor folks' wages, rather than the somewhat hysterical numbers like 10-20% batted around. Is this a bit, though, like the argument about Lott's More Guns, Less Crime, in which concealed carry was first asserted by Lott to tremendously reduce crime, and is now held to only reduce crime a little? (Ignore Lott's rather odd foibles.)

While a five-percent reduction in wages is not enormous, it is not chump change--try it yourself. I am in favor of immigration, of simplifying the system, of a bracero program, of an amnesty, against a wall, etc., blah blah. But the fact that illegal immigrants harm the poor less than previously thought, as the article's title suggests, shouldn't blind us to the various structural, and seemingly inevitable, negative consequences of illegal immigration. This includes the need to explain to the most vulnerable Americans the confusing fact that our democracy has placed laws on the book but our democracy is unwilling to enforce them.

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