Panelists: Immigration intersects with economics

By Yimian Wu
Medill News Service

CHICAGO – People have many misconceptions when talking about immigration. Darren Lubotsky, associate professor of economics at University of Illinois at Chicago, Martin R. Castro, chair of the U.S Commission on Civil Rights, and Hector Romero, CEO of Signum Research, countered these myths during a SABEW panel discussion.

Myth No.1 Immigration cost a lot of taxpayer’s money.

“The net fiscal effect of immigrants is small. At the federal level, immigrants tend to save taxpayers’ money but at the local level, they tend to cost money. Think of children of immigrants going to public schools for example,” said Lubotsky.

Myth No.2 Immigration could solve the social security problem.

“The social security problem is a long-term problem, immigration might have a positive effect but it is a really small effect. And I don’t think we want to evaluate immigration policy by what’s net fiscal effect. There is much broader effect we should be thinking about,” said Lubotsky.

Myth No.3 Low-skilled immigrants are responsible for the declining incomes of all American workers.

“If there are negative effects, they are small,” said Lubotsky. He also said that there are evidences showing that wages of high-skilled workers increase as a result of low-skilled immigration. In general, low skilled have small cost positive effect on higher skilled people. When there are more low-skilled workers, high-skilled workers are more productive because high-skilled workers can be more specialized in their work and increase their productivity.

He also warned journalists who want to research on fiscal effect of immigrants that the best work of this field, a National Academy of Sciences study done in the late 1990s, had dated data. “When you are writing about fiscal effect, keep in mind that the framework doesn’t really change but the numbers are different to what we had in the 90s,” he said.

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