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The progressive case for immigration

Sep 9, 2017 by

“WE CAN’T restore our civilisation with somebody else’s babies.” Steve King, a Republican congressman from Iowa, could hardly have been clearer in his meaning in a tweet this week supporting Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician with anti-immigrant views. Across the rich world, those of a similar mind have been emboldened by a nativist turn in politics. Some do push back: plenty of Americans rallied against Donald Trump’s plans to block refugees and migrants. Yet few rich-world politicians are willing to make the case for immigration that it deserves: it is a good thing and there should be much more of it.

Defenders of immigration often fight on nativist turf, citing data to respond to claims about migrants’ damaging effects on wages or public services. Those data are indeed on migrants’ side. Though some research suggests that native workers with skill levels similar to those of arriving migrants take a hit to their wages because of increased migration, most analyses find that they are not harmed, and that many eventually earn more as competition nudges them to specialise in more demanding occupations. But as a slogan, “The data say you’re wrong” lacks punch. More important, this narrow focus misses immigration’s biggest effects.

Appeal to self-interest is a more effective strategy. In countries with acute demographic challenges, migration is a solution to the challenges posed by ageing: immigrants’ tax payments help fund native pensions; they can help ease a shortage of care workers. In Britain, for example, voters worry that foreigners compete with natives for the care of the National Health Service, but pay less attention to the migrants helping to staff the NHS. Recent research suggests that information campaigns in Japan which focused on these issues managed to raise public support for migration (albeit from very low levels).

Source: The progressive case for immigration

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