Most of the Gains From Immigration Go to Immigrants Themselves – Not to Natives

CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES — Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal featured a reasonably balanced look at the economic effects of Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants. The state has enjoyed a 40 percent decline in its illegal population since it mandated E-Verify and empowered local police to check immigration status during traffic stops. (Because Arizona’s decline is larger than in surrounding states, we may plausibly attribute it to the new policies.) The Journal points out that fewer illegal immigrants has meant less overall economic output for Arizona, but also higher wages in some sectors and less of a financial strain on schools and hospitals.

Sorting through these different effects can be tricky, and it tripped up even Kevin Drum, a sharp-minded liberal blogger for Mother Jones. Reacting to the Journal piece, Drum noted that Arizona’s annual GDP is $6 billion lower because of the new policies, whereas schools and hospitals are saving only $410 million. “Arizona is paying a high price for cracking down on illegal immigration,” Drum concluded.

But Drum seems to assume that the benefits of a higher GDP accrue to Arizonans. As CIS’s Steven Camarota pointed out in congressional testimony, gains in GDP and gains to the native-born are very different things. Most GDP gains from immigration are captured by the immigrants themselves.

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