It is not easy to maintain a society’s commitment to freedom and limited government. The social consensus on which these values ââare based requires constant work. And many conservative intellectuals fear that large-scale immigration, especially from poor and non-free countries, will make this job much more difficult because immigrants bring with them the attitudes and beliefs of their home countries that have an impact on their destination country.
However, new research shows that the fear of immigration undermining economic freedom may be overblown.
Conservative expert Victor Davis Hanson, expressing such concerns, recently wrote that borders appear naturally to reflect common bonds of language, culture, habits and tradition. And ?? when the borders disappear ?? because there is no control over who comes in, those ties weaken. Likewise, British scholar Paul Collier observes that âmigrants essentially flee countries with dysfunctional social modelsâ. which are the main cause of their poverty. Letting these migrants bring their culture and their standards risks compromising their new country ?? establishments.
Even the famous Austrian school economist Ludwig von Mises, who saw free migration as an essential component of the (classic) liberal program, feared that in any country where the state already intervenes in the economy, migrants could exploit opportunities to further erode the economic freedom of natives.
The main evidence for these fears was offered by George Borjas of Harvard University. In one paper and a recent delivered He argues that estimates showing that opening borders would translate into billions of dollars in global wealth gains assume that immigrants do not compromise the institutional environment of their destination that makes them prosperous. ?? What would happen to the institutions and social norms that govern economic exchange in specific countries after perhaps hundreds of millions of people have entered / exited ?, ?? he asks. He then proceeds to model the impact on national productivity given various levels of immigration and concludes that with sufficient immigration, the productivity losses due to negative âspilloversâ? become superior to economic gains. But he just assumes the levels of negative spillovers he’s modeling. It offers no evidence that such overflows actually exist in the first place.
A new strain of research, to which I contributed, examined the relationship between increased immigration and changes in destination countries ?? economic freedom. He finds the exact opposite of what these critics claim.
The first of these studies in 2015, which I co-authored, examined whether immigrants undermine economic institutions, as measured by the Annual report on economic freedom in the world. This index of economic freedom, which includes the size of government, the security of property rights, the integrity of the monetary system, the freedom to trade internationally, and the amount of government regulation, is a reasonable approximation of the type of institutions that worry the conservatives. immigration could destroy. Previous research has found a close relationship between greater economic freedom and prosperity.
Our study compared 110 countries to examine the impact of immigration on their economic freedom from 1990 to 2011. We examined how the economic freedom of countries with a higher initial percentage of immigrants in 1990 was impacted 20 years over. late. We also looked at how economic freedom was affected in countries that allowed greater “flow”? immigrants between 1990 and 2011.
We found that instead of decreasing economic freedom, there was a statistically significant positive correlation between more immigration and more economic freedom. In the 32 reported regressions, some of which sparingly controlled for only immigration measures and initial levels of freedom, while others controlled for multiple other factors that might influence changes in economic freedom, we did not find no statistically significant negative relationship between immigration and economic freedom.
A similar study by Alexander Padilla and Nicolas Cachanosky at the Metropolitan State University of Denver examined how immigration affected economic freedom at the state level using the North American Economic Freedom Annual Report. This index measures government spending, taxation and labor market regulation at the state level. The study examined how the immigrant share of a state’s population and the naturalized citizen’s share of the voting population impacted economic freedom in the state over 10-year periods between 1980 and 2010.
The study could not find a statistically significant relationship between the share of immigrants or naturalized citizens of the population and economic freedom at the state level, despite the fact that the foreign population in the United States has more that doubled as the nation-born population increased. less than 18 percent in the last 20 years of analysis. In other words, more immigrants had no impact on economic freedom in a state.
Critics might object that these studies were based on immigration samples taken from a world where migration flows have been tightly managed in terms of the quantity and quality of migrants. Therefore, their findings cannot be used to generalize to a world with little or no border controls. Perhaps these immigrants have not achieved the critical mass necessary to erode freedom. And perhaps there is a selection bias in admitting immigrants that would not be present in a world with more open borders.
But another novelty to study I co-wrote with JR Clark of the University of Tennessee and Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, addresses these questions by examining a limited form of open borders in Israel. Israel restricts the immigration of non-Jews, but the “law of return”? allows all Jews to emigrate to Israel regardless of their country of origin and instantly grants them full citizenship, with the right to vote, upon arrival.
When the Soviet Union reduced its restrictions on emigration and subsequently collapsed, migrants flocked to Israel in droves. New Russian immigrants, who had lived for 70 years under socialism with a lack of economic and political freedom, made up 20 percent of Israel’s population in the late 1990s.
Yet the result was dramatic to augment in Israel’s economic freedom. Israel fell from 15% below the global average for economic freedom to 12% above, improving its ranking among countries by 47 places. With the exception of government size, all major areas of economic freedom (such as security of property rights, freedom of international trade, lack of regulation, and the strength of their money) have improved dramatically. . The size of government temporarily increased because, as citizens, new immigrants were immediately eligible for government transfers. But even this measure eventually improved after the economic integration of immigrants.
The gain in economic freedom occurred even though the new immigrants were politically active both in terms of influencing the two major parties and forming their own immigrant parties, which is unusual for immigrants. So if they were ?? important ?? their attitudes towards the new country, that would have shown. Yet, far from bringing with them socialism’s lack of economic freedom, they seem to have rebelled against economic control. In fact, in recognition of this, the left-wing Labor Party even stopped using the color red in its campaign materials for fear it would cost them immigrant votes.
An obvious objection to this study is that Israel is a special case because the migrants who come there feel a deep affinity with it, which is not necessarily the case for the more “opportunists”? immigrants. But polls have indicated that most Russian Jews would have preferred another destination if it had been convenient. In addition, they were different from the local population of Israel because almost all spoke Russian and few spoke a Jewish language. And few of them were religious. (The Law of Return applies to descendants of Jews and their non-Jewish spouses.) sociologists who studied these migrants classified them as ?? normal ?? migrants who came because of “incentive grounds”? from their country of origin, just like other migrants.
These empirical studies cannot say with certainty why immigrants do not have a negative, and often positive, impact on economic freedom. But I suspect that immigrants who leave a dysfunctional social system are not a random sample of a country’s population and are unlikely to desire to recreate what they sought to flee in their new countries. Is there a more fiercely anti-socialist electoral bloc in the United States than the Cuban immigrants? They might be an extreme example, but there might be an element of it in other migrants from other non-free countries as well.
Admittedly, these new studies are preliminary and do not settle the question definitively. Much research remains to be done. However, they should make us more skeptical of those who fear that increased, if not unrestricted, migration will necessarily erode the economic freedom that makes destination countries prosperous.