This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Immigrants Are Not a Burden--The Evidence Is In

Instead of just admitting to their xenophobia, most people who oppose immigration (no matter which country) will list a variety of disadvantages associated with letting foreigners in. In the US, there is still a belief among anti-immigrant folks that crime rates are higher among immigrants. The evidence does not support this contention, as Kathleen Dingemann and Rubén Rumbaut of UC-Irvine have demonstrated. Almost anywhere you go, the claim is made that immigrants are simply after rich-country welfare benefits and they take more than they give. Once again, the evidence does not support this contention, as shown in an OECD report just released, and discussed in this week's Economist.
The study casts light on one big worry—that immigrants are welfare junkies. In fact, their net direct contribution to the public purse is generally positive. The big exception is Germany, which has many foreign-born pensioners who came from Turkey as guest workers in the 1960s and from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.
Although immigrants generally pay their way, their net direct contribution does tend to be smaller than that of the native-born. But this arises from their paying less tax rather than receiving more benefits. And the main reason for this shortfall in taxation is lower employment, especially among women. If host countries want to squeeze the most out of immigrants, the answer is to get more of them into work.
Keep in mind that this is a cross-sectional static view, so it does not take into account the long-term effect that immigrants have of keeping an economy going by injecting younger people into the labor force of otherwise aging nations. So, it might be said that not only are immigrants not welfare junkies, they are life-savers. But, of course, xenophobes don't want to hear that kind of talk. 

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