Comment by Evelyne M. Hart: 89% of Americans agree that we are better off if high-skilled foreign workers immigrate to the U.S. There is no such thing as too many high-tech workers!



Adam Ozimek, Contributor – Forbes/Business


The latest survey of elite economists from the University of Chicago‘s Expert Panel has arrived and this time the issue is high-skilled immigration. Here is the question the pose to the panel:


“The average US citizen would be better off if a larger number of highly educated foreign workers were legally allowed to immigrate to the US each year.”


And how did economists respond? An overwhelming 89% agreed with the statement. Weighted by their level of confidence it goes up to 95%. Furthermore, the two economists who wouldn’t agree with the statement didn’t disagree with it, but were only uncertain. This should tell you what you already know: high-skilled immigration is good for this country.


So what about the uncertains? One of the two is Caroline Hoxby, and here is how she explained herself:


“As a matter of economics,question does not have a simple answer.There are trade-offs.Canada‘s immigration suggests positive overall effects.”


I wonder though what would Hoxby say if the foreign workers were not permitted to move to this country, but were simply allowed to sell the goods and services they produced to Americans while living in other nations. It happens that Hoxby answered this question in a previous IGM survey which asked:


“Freer trade improves productive efficiency and offers consumers better choices, and in the long run these gains are much larger than any effects on employment.”


Did she reply to this that there is no simple answer and it is about tradeoffs? No, apparently high-skilled workers locating across the border and selling us their goods and services does have a simple answer, because she strongly agreed to this question with a certainty level of 10. Here is the comment she made with her answer:


“The world’s endowment is allocated more efficiently under free trade, making the avg person better off. Individuals may face adjustment costs”


And of course she is right about trade, but why does the logic fall apart when we allow high-skilled workers to move here? In fact there are differences between being the citizen of a nation and being an exporter to that nation, but all the ways in which high-skilled workers are likely to impact us by living here are positive, not negative. I have a hard time imagining what Hoxby thinks the negative spillovers are that high-skilled workers will generate that are plausibly going to overwhelm the positive effects of trading with them.


Robert Hall, the other uncertain economist, makes his particular concern clear in the comment he leaves:


“The big issue in immigration is the families of the workers. Almost any worker is a benefit, but the other family

members may be costly.”

This is a concern with the families of high-skilled workers? I have to believe Robert didn’t read the answer fully, because it is hard to imagine that the families of high-skilled workers are generating negative spillovers. To the extent that their spouses come with them instead of them marrying a native they are surely more likely than average to have high IQ children who generate positive peer effects, and high-skilled spouses who also contribute to the economy through a job of their own or household production.


But I don’t want to focus too much on the two uncertain economists, rather the important issue here is the massive agreement among economists that high-skilled immigration makes the average American better off. As is often the case in IGM surveys, I think Austan Goolsbee aptly sums the issue up with the pithy comment he leaves next to his “strongly agree” with a certainty of 10 response: “duh”.


Keep this consensus in mind the next time you read partisan ideologues make the absurd claim that “If anything, we have too many high-tech workers”.


Read Forbes’ original article.




Hart Immigration provides immigration services in Los Angeles, Orange County, and surrounding areas.