Have scholars reached a consensus that immigration has no downsides for the United States? Listening to advocates and their allied media, one might assume so. Vox once ran this headline: “There's no evidence that immigrants hurt any American workers.” The Cato Institute similarly claims “there is no evidence that immigrants weaken or undermine American economic, political, or cultural institutions”. A writer for Forbes has declared that immigration restrictionists “are on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of social science”.
The purpose of this compendium is to dispel such self-serving myths. The truth is that the costs and benefits of immigration are routinely measured, weighed, and debated in academic journals. No fair reading of the literature could conclude that immigration is an unambiguous good. What follows are my own summaries of 49 recent academic works showing negative impacts of immigration in areas ranging from labor markets to health. Each summary focuses on the immigration aspects of the work, draws out policy implications, and links to related CIS research whenever helpful.
Wage and Employment Effects
The National Academies’ 2017 Report
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a book-length report in 2017 that reviews the economic impact of immigration. This section uses the National Academies’ report as a starting point, then discusses more recent papers that also find mixed or negative effects on the American labor market.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration. Francine D. Blau and Christopher Mackie, Eds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2017.
Chapters 4 and 5 review the theoretical and empirical research on how immigration affects the labor market, making it clear that immigration is costly to certain groups of Americans. For example, Table 5-2 from the report lists several major studies measuring immigration’s impact on wages. Notice the negative values in the “Wage Effect” column:
Unfortunately, some activists and allied media have ignored the contents of the National Academies’ report and taken to citing it as an entirely pro-immigration work. One of the most egregious offenders is the economist Esther Duflo. She claimed that the report “summarized maybe hundreds of studies, and they all come to the conclusion that the effect of low-skilled migration on low-skilled wages is zero”. It is these types of assertions, thoroughly unmoored from reality, that fuel the impression of consensus about immigration’s benefits.
Since the National Academies’ report was published, academics have continued to produce papers finding negative wage and employment effects. A curated list is provided below.
Anthony Edo, "The Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market", Journal of Economic Surveys, Vol. 33 (2019), pp. 922-948.
Similar in content to the National Academies’ chapters, this review paper takes a more international perspective. After considering over 50 studies of immigration in developed countries, the author concludes that “immigration can create winners and losers among the native-born workers”. Because low-skill immigration tends to make low-skill natives the “losers” and high-skill natives the “winners”, rising inequality is a natural consequence. This conclusion stands in stark contrast to the advocates’ position that “there is no evidence that immigrants hurt any American workers”. While some Americans gain from immigration, others certainly do lose.
Joseph Price, Christian vom Lehn, and Riley Wilson, "The Winners and Losers of Immigration: Evidence from Linked Historical Data", NBER Working Paper Series, No. 27156 (2020). Updated 2023.
This paper acknowledges the winner-loser framework right in its title. The authors use genealogical data to track millions of men between decennial censuses in the early 20th century. Following these individuals allows the authors to improve upon past research that focused only on community-level impacts of immigration. They find that older and higher-skilled workers were the “winners” — their incomes tended to go up when immigrants entered their local labor market. By contrast, younger and less-skilled workers were the “losers” — they were more likely to move away and suffer income losses as a result of immigration. In the modern-day context, CIS has emphasized that immigration tends to have strong disemployment effects on the youngest and least-skilled Americans of all: teenagers.
David A. Jaeger, Joakim Ruist, and Jan Stuhler, "Shift-Share Instruments and the Impact of Immigration", NBER Working Paper Series, No. 24285 (2018).
Several studies try to isolate the impact of immigration on wages by comparing cities with different levels of immigration. The problem is that immigrants do not choose destination cities randomly. If they choose cities that have rising wages, the negative impact of immigration may be obscured.
This paper shows that a common “instrumental variables” technique to deal with that problem still unintentionally captures more than just the initial impact of immigration. When a local area experiences an influx of immigrants, the wage goes down for a time, but then it rises back toward equilibrium as more businesses come in or other workers leave. Since immigrants tend to go to the same places year after year, the instrumental variables technique captures both the negative short-term wage effect and the positive "catch-up" wage effect from earlier waves of immigrants. As a result, all of the short-term wage effects estimated using this method appear less negative than they really are.
The authors of this paper provide a long list of prior studies that underestimate negative wage effects because of this faulty method. Giovanni Peri, an economist known for downplaying the negative impact of immigration, has 12 different papers on the list.
In the standard model first developed by George Borjas, immigrants produce small economic gains for natives (an “immigration surplus”), but do so by lowering the wages of competing workers. The model is built on the assumption of “perfect competition” in the labor market, meaning that employers compete for labor until the wage is bid up to equal the workers’ value added. But what happens if the assumption of perfect competition is relaxed?
The authors of this paper argue that various legal and cultural barriers prevent immigrants from moving between jobs as easily as natives do. With less competition among employers to hire workers, immigration could reduce the ability of workers to demand a wage that reflects the full value of their labor. If so, both the surplus and the corresponding wage reductions would increase in magnitude.
L. Jason Anastasopoulos, George J. Borjas, Gavin G. Cook, and Michael Lachanski, "Job Vacancies and Immigration: Evidence from the Mariel Supply Shock", Journal of Human Capital, Vol. 15 (2021), pp. 1-33.
It may seem that the Mariel Boatlift (summarized here by CIS) has been studied to death, but this is an innovative paper. It uses a database of historical job listings to establish that job vacancies for low-skill workers in Miami declined after a sudden wave of Cuban refugees arrived in the city in 1980. The implication is that the labor market was not able to immediately adjust to the influx of new workers.
Elior Cohen and Samantha Shampine, "Do Immigration Restrictions Affect Job Vacancies? Evidence from Online Job Postings", Economic Review, Vol. 108 (2023).
The researchers use online job listings to study the downturn in immigration that corresponded roughly with the Trump presidency. They find that U.S. labor markets that rely most heavily on immigrant labor posted more job vacancies during the downturn compared to low-reliance markets. In addition, advertised wages grew substantially more in the high-reliance markets, even though the posted skill requirements for the jobs grew more slowly, if at all. The findings suggest that immigration restriction benefited less-skilled U.S. workers.
Christian Dustmann, Uta Schönberg, and Jan Stuhler, "Labor Supply Shocks, Native Wages, and the Adjustment of Local Employment", The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 132 (2017), pp. 435-483.
Maria Forthun Hoen, "Immigration and the Tower of Babel: Using Language Barriers to Identify Individual Labor Market Effects of Immigration", Labour Economics, Vol. 65 (2020), p. 101834.
These two papers analyze immigration surges in different countries but come to similar conclusions. In the first paper, a change in commuting policy led to a sudden increase in Czech workers in a border area of Germany. The result was lower wages and employment levels for natives, particularly for those who were older and had less attachment to the labor force. In the second paper, an expansion of the EU labor market caused a surge of immigration to Norway. Wages for young workers fell in the most affected industries, and workers of all ages — especially older ones — experienced declines in employment and increases in disability enrollment.
Although both papers focus on Europe, they have important implications for U.S. policy. As CIS has argued, the tight labor market in the U.S. in 2019 led employers to recruit from marginalized groups, such as high school dropouts and the disabled. Expanding immigration in a tight labor market could short-circuit that employer outreach.
David Neumark and Cortnie Shupe, "Declining Teen Employment: Minimum Wages, Returns to Schooling, and Immigration", Labour Economics, Vol. 59 (2019), pp. 49-68.
The primary focus of this paper is the minimum wage, but it finds some role for immigration in reducing teen employment. By contrast, the authors find only minimal evidence that teens voluntarily left the labor market because the economic returns to a high school diploma had increased.
Anthony Edo and Hillel Rapoport, "Minimum Wages and the Labor Market Effects of Immigration", Labour Economics, Vol. 61 (2019), p. 101753.
This paper uses state variation in minimum wage laws to show that immigrants tend to lower the wages and employment levels of the natives with whom they compete most directly. Specifically, natives suffer greater wage and employment losses due to low-skill immigration in states with lower minimum wages. Whether increasing the minimum wage would be wise policy is beyond the scope of the paper, but it does show once again that immigrants and natives are — at least to a large extent — substitutes in the labor market.
Michael Amior, "The Contribution of Immigration to Local Labor Market Adjustment", CEP Discussion Paper Series, No. 1678 (2020). Updated 2023.
Why don’t more Americans leave economically depressed places and move to the parts of the U.S. where more jobs are available? One answer, according to this paper, is that new immigrants tend to settle in high-employment areas, reducing the potential rewards for natives who want to move there. This “crowd-out” effect illustrates how immigration can limit the opportunities for down-and-out natives to benefit from economic growth.
Several other recent papers illustrate the “crowd-out” effect.
Javier Ortega and Gregory Verdugo, "Who Stays and Who Leaves? Immigration and the Selection of Natives across Locations", Journal of Economic Geography, Vol. 22 (2021), pp. 221-260.
George J. Borjas and Anthony Edo, "Gender, Selection into Employment, and the Wage Impact of Immigration", NBER Working Paper Series, No. 28682 (2022).
The two papers above show that immigration in France has imposed downward pressure on wages and encouraged natives to move away from high-immigration areas or leave the labor force entirely. Because the natives who exit tend to be less-skilled, the wage impact of immigration on a particular area may be understated if researchers do not take into account the new workforce composition.
Joan Monras, "Local Adjustment to Immigrant-Driven Labor Supply Shocks", Journal of Human Capital, Vol. 15 (2021), pp. 204-235.
This is another paper that demonstrates how internal migration can partially disguise longer-term labor market effects of immigration. After the Mariel boatlift initially caused wages to decline in Miami, the labor market returned to equilibrium. However, about half of the adaptation can be ascribed to low-skill workers moving away from (or declining to move to) Miami.
Bin Xie, "The Effects of Immigration Quotas on Wages, the Great Black Migration, and Industrial Development", IZA Discussion Paper Series, No. 11214 (2017). Updated 2022.
Just as economists have studied sudden surges in immigration to assess the labor market effects, the results of sudden restrictions on immigration are also instructive. According to this analysis, restrictive immigration laws in the 1920s raised manufacturing wages in areas that had been dependent on immigration, drawing Black migrants from the South into northern factories. This result provides further support for the theory that immigration deters natives from moving into emerging labor markets.
Ran Abramitzky, Philipp Ager, Leah Boustan, Elior Cohen, and Casper W. Hansen, "The Effect of Immigration Restrictions on Local Labor Markets: Lessons from the 1920s Border Closure", American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Vol. 15 (2023), pp. 164-191.
This paper also finds that 1920s immigration restrictions benefited rural Americans who migrated into cities to replace lost labor. By contrast, farmers mechanized rather than attempt to recruit new workers.
Although low-skill immigration has the most concerning effects on the labor market, high-skill immigration also comes with trade-offs. The following papers suggest that many “high-skill” immigrants are less skilled than advertised, and they often substitute for (rather than complement) other U.S. workers.
Simone Bertoli and Steven Stillman, "All That Glitters Is Not Gold: Wages and Education for U.S. Immigrants", Labour Economics, Vol. 61 (2019), p. 101749.
Education generally correlates with earnings, but the relationship is weaker among immigrants. This paper finds that when a highly educated immigrant is selected at random, 25 percent of the time he or she will have lower earnings than a less-educated immigrant who is also selected at random. The corresponding figure for high- vs. less-educated natives is about 14 percent. “Conferring a pivotal role to education in the selection of migrants might fail to induce a substantial increase in their average quality, and it might even potentially backfire,” the authors warn. For one thing, these allegedly “skilled” workers could end up competing with less-educated natives.
Jason Richwine, "Skill Deficits among Foreign-Educated Immigrants: Evidence from the U.S. PIAAC", PLOS ONE, Vol. 17 (2022).
This paper offers a skills-based explanation for why the correlation between education and earnings is lower among immigrants. Compared to natives with the same level of education, immigrants with foreign college or advanced degrees score lower on tests of English literacy, numeracy, and computer operations. Controlling for test scores reduces the observed immigrant-native earnings gap by at least half, suggesting that the earnings deficit is in large part a skills deficit.
These findings are consistent with several CIS reports related to high-skill immigration. First, despite their faster educational gains, recent immigrants have not improved relative to natives on measures of income, poverty, and welfare consumption. Second, college-educated immigrants are more likely than college-educated natives to hold low-skill jobs, especially when the immigrants are from Latin America. Third, the value of foreign degrees varies substantially by the source country.
Kirk Doran, Alexander Gelber, and Adam Isen, "The Effects of High-Skilled Immigration Policy on Firms: Evidence from Visa Lotteries", Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 130 (2022), pp. 2501-2533.
When a draft of this paper was circulating prior to publication, the National Academies praised its methodology as “particularly clean” due to the use of a natural experiment. Since H-1B visas are distributed randomly when the number of applications exceed the cap, the authors were able to isolate the effect of H-1B workers by comparing firms that applied for a visa and won the lottery with firms that applied and lost.
If H-1B workers are truly exceptional talents for whom there are few American substitutes, then lottery-winning firms would increase their employment relative to the lottery losers by roughly the number of H-1B workers they receive. Instead, the winners ended up employing fewer workers than the losers. For every two H-1B visas the firms won, three other workers were crowded out. Furthermore, the authors find little evidence that lottery-winning firms are any more innovative than the losing firms.
John Bound, Gaurav Khanna, and Nicolas Morales, "Understanding the Economic Impact of the H-1B Program on the United States", in High-Skilled Migration to the United States and Its Economic Consequences, Gordon H. Hanson, William R. Kerr, and Sarah Turner, Eds., National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., 2017.
General equilibrium models can be highly sensitive to assumptions. It sometimes seems that one can build a model to prove virtually any proposition. In this case, however, the model confirms basic economic theory: High-skill immigration in the 1990s lowered the wage for competing native workers but reduced consumer prices and increased corporate profits, again illustrating the trade-offs inherent to immigration policy. Consumers and corporations win, while some workers lose.
Edward P. Lazear, "Why Are Some Immigrant Groups More Successful Than Others?", Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 39 (2021), pp. 115-133.
High-skill immigration begets lower-skill immigration. That is an implication of this paper, which shows that when the U.S. draws only a small number of immigrants from a large country, those immigrants are generally skilled. However, as the number of immigrants rises relative to the size of the sending country, the skill level tends to go down, especially if the average skill level in the sending country is low.
For example, although Nigerian immigrants to the U.S. have relatively high levels of education, we cannot expect to skim this developing country’s elite forever. As more Nigerians are inspired by previous waves to come to the U.S., their skill profile will increasingly resemble that of the average Nigerian. Limiting family-based immigration to spouses and minor children would help reduce this less-skilled flow.
While optimists insist that assimilation is proceeding apace, the reality is that immigration nearly always causes cultural changes. The studies in this section demonstrate how persistent those changes can be. Not all changes are inherently negative, but most cause social disruption, and some can be notably damaging to the institutions that have made the U.S. prosperous.
Garett Jones, The Culture Transplant: How Migrants Make the Economies They Move to a Lot Like the Ones They Left, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2022.
George Mason University economist Garett Jones has a provocative thesis: Immigrants bring with them distinctive values and behaviors from the Old Country that they transmit to their descendants, who then perpetuate them in their new country. This cultural “transplant” contradicts claims that immigrants to the U.S. will cause little or no change to the social fabric. In fact, past immigration has already reshaped our society, and today’s immigration will cause further changes that persist long into the future. The danger as Jones sees it is that mass immigration could import cultures that are not historically conducive to prosperity.
Because Jones already cites a multitude of studies, the rest of this section on cultural persistence is limited to recent papers that post-date or are otherwise not included in his book.
Jason Richwine, "Savings Behavior among Immigrants and Their U.S.-Born Children: A Test of the Culture-Transplant Model", Economics Letters, Vol. 231 (2023), p. 111279.
The willingness to save money is a trait that appears to persist among groups who move to new places. While research from both the UK and Germany already show that the descendants of immigrants have savings behavior reminiscent of their ancestral countries, this paper demonstrates the same phenomenon in the U.S. For example, South Korea has a higher national savings rate than Nigeria, which in turn has a higher savings rate than Guatemala. At the same time, Korean Americans save more for their retirements than Nigerian Americans, who save more than Guatemalan Americans. The relationship still holds after controlling for factors such as age, sex, income, education, and work experience. This finding is a reminder that policymakers cannot assume full assimilation when setting immigration policy.
Thor Berger and Per Engzell, "American Geography of Opportunity Reveals European Origins", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 116 (2019), pp. 6045-6050.
Once again, some aspects of a people’s culture are highly persistent even after migration. In this paper, upward mobility in the U.S. is found to be greatest in areas settled by people whose ancestral countries in Europe also have the greatest upward mobility. In practice, this means that a person’s upward mobility is positively correlated with the percentage of German- or Scandinavian-Americans in his or her community, but it is negatively correlated with the percentage of French- or Italian-Americans. These correlations apply to both non-Hispanic whites and Blacks within a given community, indicating broadly shared benefits when the culture is conducive to mobility.
Samuel Bazzi, Andreas Ferrara, Martin Fiszbein, Thomas Pearson, and Patrick A. Testa, "The Other Great Migration: Southern Whites and the New Right", The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 138 (2023), pp. 1577-1647.
Domestic migration can cause culture transplant as well. This paper finds that a non-Southern county’s percentage of migrant white Southerners in 1940 is a strong predictor of the county’s culture in modern times. For example, as a county’s 1940 percentage of white Southern migrants increases, that county is more likely to support Donald Trump, oppose abortion, build evangelical churches, listen to country music, and even favor barbecue chicken over pizza. Clearly, Southern migrants were not assimilated into the pre-existing culture of their new homes outside the South. Instead, they transplanted their own culture, sharing it with non-Southern neighbors and transmitting it to the next generation. Immigrants from abroad are likely to do the same thing.
Cary Wu, "Does Migration Affect Trust? Internal Migration and the Stability of Trust among Americans", The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 61 (2020), pp. 523-543.
Cary Wu, "How Stable Is Generalized Trust? Internal Migration and the Stability of Trust among Canadians", Social Indicators Research, Vol. 153 (2021), pp. 129-147.
These two papers also examine domestic migration. There is little to no change in the relatively low trust levels of Southerners in the U.S. who move to the higher-trust North. At the same time, Northerners who move South appear to keep most or all of the social trust with which they were raised. The same persistence of trust levels can be observed among Canadians who move in and out of lower-trust Quebec. Since even domestic migration causes a culture transplant, is it unlikely that international migration would lead to full assimilation.
Paola Giuliano and Marco Tabellini, "The Seeds of Ideology: Historical Immigration and Political Preferences in the United States", NBER Working Paper Series, No. 27238 (2020).
The authors find that preferences for redistribution among Americans today are correlated with the historical presence of immigrants. Specifically, immigrants seem to have imported the political ideology of their home countries and then spread those views to natives. Whether the direction of this political effect caused by immigration is “negative” will depend on one’s own views, but remember that any significant political shift, to the left or to the right, usually involves social disruption.
Zachary Ward, "The Not-So-Hot Melting Pot: The Persistence of Outcomes for Descendants of the Age of Mass Migration", American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Vol. 12 (2020), pp. 73-102.
In 1880, large differences in earnings (as measured by occupational status) existed among immigrants of different nationalities. By 1940, the grandchildren of those immigrants still exhibited about half of the initial differences. Although this paper focuses primarily on Great Wave immigrants, the author warns that “there are many reasons to expect the persistence of ethnic gaps to be stronger for more recent times”.
Indeed, a CIS report finds that the grandchildren of Mexican immigrants still lag behind white Americans in education and earnings. Immigration advocates who brush aside concerns about assimilation need to address this worrisome evidence.
Other Cultural Effects
Kathleen Kürschner Rauck and Michael Kvasnicka, "The 2015 European Refugee Crisis and Residential Housing Rents in Germany", IZA Discussion Paper Series, No. 12047 (2018).
Kathleen Kürschner Rauck, "'Not in My Backyard!' The 2015 Refugee Crisis in Germany", School of Finance Working Paper Series, (2020).
These companion papers fall at the intersection of economics and culture. They find that the influx of Syrian refugees to Germany lowered apartment rents and the prices of single-family homes in areas where the refugees were most concentrated, despite the sheer increase in people needing housing. The reason is that native Germans did not wish to live near large numbers of refugees. Immigration changes host countries in a variety of ways, and these papers offer a rare quantitative look at how natives sometimes avoid the areas most affected.
Maria F. Hoen, Simen Markussen, and Knut Røed, "Immigration and Economic Mobility", Journal of Population Economics, Vol. 35 (2022), pp. 1589-1630.
Using administrative data from Norway, the authors find that low-skill immigration has reduced social mobility, causing inequality to increase. Interestingly, they connect their findings to the politics of immigration. Opposition to immigration from lower classes in Norway arises not necessarily from “bigotry”, but as a rational response to their weakened economic position.
Umair Ali, "Native Flight Responses to Immigration: Evidence from K-12 School Enrollments", Education Working Paper Series, No. 22-579 (2022).
In the U.S., a growing immigrant population in a metropolitan area increases the likelihood that white and Black natives will exit the public schools. The effect is especially strong among white students, who tend to move over to private schools. By contrast, Hispanic and Asian students do not leave the public schools. The author of this paper suggests that “homophily” — the desire for cultural familiarity — can explain why immigration appears to be so disruptive to the student body. Lower levels of immigration would mitigate these cultural disruptions, as CIS has emphasized.
Leah Boustan, Christine Cai, and Tammy Tseng, "White Flight from Asian Immigration: Evidence from California Public Schools", Journal of Urban Economics, forthcoming.
This paper also examines a form of “native flight”, but it focuses on how Asian immigration affects California’s wealthy suburban school districts. The arrival of every two Asian students is associated with the departure of three white students, due to what the authors believe is a fear of academic competition. This phenomenon is an example of immigration-induced social disruption that occurs despite (or perhaps because of) the skills that the immigrants bring with them.
Grace MyHyun Kim and North Cooc, "Student Immigration, Migration, and Teacher Preparation", Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 49 (2023), pp. 3222-3244.
Although it does not include the United States, this survey of teachers in 46 OECD and partner countries demonstrates how challenging it can be to provide education when immigration levels are high. Even after receiving training for multicultural or multilingual classrooms, just 35 percent of teachers felt they were well prepared to handle them.
Courtney Brell, Christian Dustmann, and Ian Preston, "The Labor Market Integration of Refugee Migrants in High-Income Countries", Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 34 (2020), pp. 94-121.
Resettling refugees may be a humanitarian good, but the argument that refugees are somehow an economic boon to their host nations is dubious. This paper reviews the evidence that refugees struggle to integrate into the economies of high-income host nations. In the U.S. specifically, refugees perform unusually well in finding jobs. However, in line with their counterparts in other rich nations, U.S. refugees earn low wages even after 10 years of residency.
CIS estimated in 2020 that the average new refugee in the U.S. imposes a fiscal cost of about $60,000 in lifetime net present value. The corresponding cost for refugees who enter as adults is $133,000.
Dafeng Xu, "The Effects of Immigration Restriction Laws on Immigrant Segregation in the Early Twentieth Century U.S.", Journal of Comparative Economics, Vol. 48 (2020), pp. 422-447.
The ethnic enclaves in which Great Wave immigrants gathered gradually withered, leading to less residential segregation. According to this paper, the process was aided by immigration restriction in the 1920s. The paper finds that residential segregation decreased more rapidly among the immigrant groups that were most restricted, such as Italians and Poles. The effect occurred mainly by denying ethnic enclaves “reinforcements” in the form of new immigrants, although the author also finds some evidence that return migration became more likely among enclave residents compared to non-enclave residents. The results suggest that, to the extent that the “melting pot” operates, it can be strengthened by limiting immigration.
Robert L. Boyd, "How ‘Ethnic’ Were White Ethnic Neighborhoods? European Ancestry Groups in the Twentieth-Century USA", Journal of International Migration and Integration, Vol. 24 (2023), pp. 1211-1229.
Despite the decline in ethnic neighborhoods following the 1924 act, they did not disappear. At least as late as 1980, Americans of Italian, Polish, Greek, and Russian Jewish ancestry still followed distinct residential patterns that cannot be explained by their socioeconomic status. The author of this paper believes that ethnic neighborhoods persist mainly because descendants of immigrants retain a cultural affinity for their co-ethnics. The finding demonstrates yet again that immigration does not lead inexorably to assimilation; rather, it generates cultural differences that persist for generations.
Tianran Dai and Nathan Schiff, "The Structure and Growth of Ethnic Neighborhoods", Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 137 (2023), p. 103570.
Expanding immigration after 1965 caused ethnic enclaves to grow again. While 43 percent of the foreign-born population in 1970 lived in enclaves as defined in this paper, 67 percent did so in 2010.
Deniz Gevrek, Cahit Guven, and Z. Eylem Gevrek, "The Relationship between Early-Life Conditions in the Home Country and Adult Outcomes among Child Immigrants in the United States", Economics & Human Biology, Vol. 45 (2022), p. 101069.
Immigrants who arrive in the U.S. as children generally have the benefit of growing up with institutions that help them integrate into their new society. However, this paper finds that the infant mortality rate in the children’s sending country is negatively associated with their academic performance in U.S. middle schools and with their subsequent labor market outcomes as adults. The authors argue that this association is causal. However, even if the relationship is due to other factors, it is still a sobering reminder that long-term exposure to U.S. institutions (including costly social programs) cannot always overcome pre-existing differences. CIS has reflected on this problem in several papers, including an analysis of academic tests that include the scores of U.S. immigrants and their children.
Crime and Health Effects
Alexander Billy and Michael Packard, "Crime and the Mariel Boatlift", International Review of Law and Economics, Vol. 72 (2022), p. 106094.
Research on the Mariel Boatlift usually focuses on the labor market impact. (See Anastasopoulos et al. above.) This paper investigates the impact on crime. Compared to similar cities, Miami experienced a 41 percent increase in the murder rate, a 70 percent increase in the rate of robberies, and at least a 25 percent increase in the rate of property crimes after the boatlift. The authors caution, however, that extrapolating to ordinary immigrants would be unjustified, since Fidel Castro added inmates of prisons and mental hospitals to the ranks of the Marielitos.
In a 2022 report, CIS showed that illegal immigrants in Texas appeared to commit homicide and sexual assault at higher rates than the state average. The report cautioned, however, that the government’s failure to reliably identify illegals who commit lesser offenses precludes any strong claims about their overall criminality.
Brandyn F. Churchill, Andrew Dickinson, Taylor Mackay, and Joseph J. Sabia, "The Effect of E-Verify Laws on Crime", ILR Review, Vol. 75 (2022), pp. 1294-1320.
States that mandated E-Verify saw a 7 percent decline in property crime committed by working-age Hispanics. The authors believe that the decrease in labor market competition with illegal aliens steered Hispanic citizens toward work and away from crime.
Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel, Naci H. Mocan, Semih Tumen, and Belgi Turan, “The Crime Effect of Refugees”, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming.
The influx of millions of Syrian refugees into Turkey caused crime to rise in the most affected provinces, although this study cannot distinguish between Syrian and Turkish offenders. The authors theorize that economic competition is one of the drivers of conflict between the two groups.
Although massive refugee flows are more associated with Europe, the U.S. may eventually confront similar issues. For example, when the Biden administration began accepting tens of thousands of Afghan refugees last year, CIS warned that vetting was woefully insufficient. An additional CIS report discussed evidence that crime rates among Afghan refugees in Europe are troublingly high. Whether the U.S. will experience similar refugee crime problems remains to be seen.
Elyas Bakhtiari, "The Missing Mortality Advantage for European Immigrants to the United States in the Early Twentieth Century", Demography, Vol. 59 (2022), pp. 1517-1539.
Philipp Ager, James J. Feigenbaum, Casper W. Hansen, and Hui Ren Tan, "How the Other Half Died: Immigration and Mortality in U.S. Cities", The Review of Economic Studies, (2023).
Both of these papers examine the relationship between Great Wave immigration and the spread of disease. The first paper notes that immigrants from that period did not have the lower mortality rates that we observe in immigrants today. The author’s main explanation is that immigration exacerbated overcrowding in cities, leading to more infectious diseases.
Analyzing the aftermath of the 1924 act that ended the Great Wave, the authors of the second paper develop a measure of “missing immigrants”, meaning the difference between the actual number of immigrants post-1924 and the number expected based on pre-1924 trend lines. As the first paper would have predicted, cities with more missing immigrants saw greater declines in infectious-disease deaths. The authors argue that reduced crowding led to improved sanitation in cities, boosting the health of immigrants and natives alike.
Although recent immigrants have tended to exhibit lower mortality rates than natives, the advantage may be less helpful during viral outbreaks. As CIS has shown, household overcrowding contributes to the spread of respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19, and modern immigration has added significantly to the overcrowding problem in the U.S. — just as it did prior to 1924.
Devin Razavi-Shearer et al., "The Impact of Immigration on Hepatitis B Burden in the United States: A Modelling Study", The Lancet Regional Health - Americas, Vol. 22 (2023), p. 100516.
As the source of immigration shifted to less-developed countries after 1965, the number of immigrants infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) increased. According to this analysis, about 76 percent of all HBV infections in the U.S. today occur among immigrants. The authors predict rising cases of liver cancer and cirrhosis in the U.S. over the next decade as a result of the infections.
Rachel Yelk Woodruff, Andrew Hill, Suzanne Marks, Thomas Navin, and Roque Miramontes, "Estimated Latent Tuberculosis Infection Prevalence and Tuberculosis Reactivation Rates among Non-U.S.-Born Residents in the United States, from the 2011–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey", Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, Vol. 23 (2021), pp. 806-812.
Foreign-born persons account for 68 percent of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the United States. According to this paper, latent TB infection (which can lead to symptomatic cases) is especially high among immigrants from India, China, and the Philippines, who have about a 30 percent infection rate, compared to 6 percent among European immigrants. (The authors did not provide the infection rate of the U.S.-born.)
Melike Dedeoğlu, Emrah Koçak, and Zübeyde Şentürk Uucak, "The Impact of Immigration on Human Capital and Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the USA: An Empirical Investigation", Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, Vol. 14 (2021), pp. 705-714.
This paper shows that immigration to the U.S. increases the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. While allowing that mitigating climate change requires a multi-faceted approach, the authors argue that policymakers should not ignore the role of immigration when devising environmental policies. Previous CIS research has made largely the same point.