July 14, 2010

David Coates on Immigration Politics

Debates about immigration seem to crop up during times of financial and political crisis. This is not a new trend here in the United States--just take a look back into history for your answer. Often, when the economy takes a turn for the disastrous, people turn the blame toward migrants, whether or not there is actually any valid reason for doing so. This is also known, simply, as scapegoating.

The political economist David Coates writes:
Immigration by foreign-born workers, and unemployment among native-born ones, may go together in modern America, but the relationship between them is neither simple nor directly causal. On the contrary, three things at least are very clear in the data on contemporary trends in employment and wages – at least very clear to those not subsumed in Arizona-type hysteria. (1) Immigration, legal or otherwise, is not the main cause of the current recession. (2) The overall impact of immigration on employment, productivity and income in the contemporary US economy is broadly positive; and (3) the very forces triggering migration from the global “south” are the same ones creating unemployment and falling wages in the global “north”.
There are some interesting points to be made here, especially since many pundits and politicians are hanging on to the idea that immigration is one of the main problems of the US economy. Is it really? One of the most interesting points that Coates brings up is the idea that the same "forces" that are pushing people to migrate away from places like Mexico are also creating unemployment in places like the United States.

Coates' post is absolutely worth a read. The rest is here.

*I found Coates via Maxine Udall, who writes that he is on of her "favorite political economists."

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