Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Question about Hatian Immigrants

I put up an article in my international class about how the US could really help Haiti by allowing more immigration, and by liberalizing visa restrictions on a temporary basis. Part of the argument was that this could generally be seen as a good idea anyway, since there are gains from trade (and the same applies to trade in the factors of production, i.e. immigration and FDI) yadda, yadda...
So one student makes a point about immigrants possibly being negatively selected. I cited some general research showing that, no, immigrants tend to be more educated than their countrymen at home (on average), and that immigrants who move are often highly motivated to earn as much income as they can so that they can send remittances, and that this tends to be pretty true for both legal and illegal immigrants. So the student asked if that was the case specifically for Haiti, and I didn't know. His overall point was that since Haiti is so poor, maybe it's good enough to them if they can just get here and collect a welfare check. (What I thought, but didn't really say at this point was, "but if they went to the trouble to get here - and it is a lot of trouble getting here - why wouldn't they try to get a job so that they can have marginally more income to help their families with?" but anyway...)
Then, Google Reader spits this out of the World Bank "People Move" blog at me. Here's the telling quote:
consider this fact from the Current Population Survey of the US: nearly one-third of Haitian immigrants in the US belong to households that earned more than $60,000 in 2009. In comparison, less than 15% of the immigrants from Mexico, Dominican Republic and El Salvador in the US had that level of household income. A quarter of Haitian immigrants, especially women, are reportedly in the relatively higher paying health care and education sectors; only a small number of them are in the construction sector.

So the bottom line is that my intuition was right, popular bias (often formerly fueled by the drunken rampages of Lou Dobbs) was wrong, and open borders win another challenge from the protectionists.

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