Immigration: Winners and Losers? by James E. Hartley

Shepherds of a Wounded Flock, by Stephen P. White
October 17, 2019
Synod’s Final Document Drafting Committee Packed With Leftists, by Stephen Wynne
October 17, 2019

By James E. Hartley, Public Discourse, The Witherspoon Institute, Oct. 16, 2019

Attempts to discover the effect of immigration on government budgets are highly susceptible to the decisions economists make about how to measure all those benefits and costs and how to account for the effects on the indigenous population. The quick answer to “What is the effect of immigration on government budgets?” is “It depends on how you measure it.”

Who is helped and who is hurt by immigration? This question seems like it should be relatively straightforward.

In a previous essay in Public Discourse, I noted that immigration does not have any significant net aggregate economic effects. But the absence of an aggregate effect does not mean there are no distributional effects. After all, taking $10,000 from every person who reads this essay and giving it to the author of this essay has no aggregate effect on wealth, yet I still think that is an admirable idea. (You may have a different opinion.) So, maybe the economic effects of immigration are similar redistributions of income or wealth.

When we look at other policy issues, we know that distributional consequences can be large. Consider international trade and tariffs. It is well established that tariffs are harmful to the economy imposing them; levying tariffs makes your country poorer, because you are losing the benefits of international trade possibilities. However, not everyone is worse off. A tariff on automobiles does make domestic automobile manufacturers better off. While the gains to the automobile manufacturers are smaller than the losses to society, tariffs do benefit some at the expense of others. ….