Economics writer Matt O’Brien penned a column/blog in the Washington Post on June 2 focused on unequal earnings around the globe. (“When it comes to a person’s wealth, geography is often destiny, research finds”) His conclusion is that there is nothing that would reduce global inequality more than the United States inviting in more immigrants.
But, wait. What would that do for us already here? O’Brien notes that, “If we let everyone who wanted to come to the United States into the country, it would drive down wages for the people who already live here – maybe as much as 20 percent – in at least the short-to-medium run.” Right! If having a larger population were a route to prosperity, why do China and India have such extensive poverty? And, why are some small countries in Europe so prosperous? And, why are international development programs in less fortunate countries often marked by a family planning component aimed at slowing population growth?
Besides, assuming that O’Brien is not in favor of entirely open borders, it’s difficult to imagine how many more he would like to admit. Perhaps he does not realize that we already have an overly generous admission policy for legal immigration – more than a million a year – joining more than a million guest workers and topped off by illegal immigration that – contrary to suggestions that it has stopped – continues in a copious flow across our borders as well as by visa scofflaws.
The open-the-door-wider crowd may think that we are not doing enough to reduce global income inequality by taking in more immigrants, but that view is not shared by U.S. public opinion for good reason.