New Book Sighted in the Wild

Although the official publication date of We Wanted Workers is still some weeks away, the publisher told me on Thursday that the first two copies out of the bindery had just been delivered to their office. So my wife and I jumped at the opportunity to go down to New York City, pick up the books, spend time with our kids, and have a nice family celebration (appropriately enough) at one of the best Cuban restaurants in Manhattan.

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The book looks really good. I reread parts of it on the train back to Boston today, and my (non-humble) reaction was “Not bad at all.” I am sure that I’ll be blogging about the reactions from the lovers and the haters in the weeks to come.

On Brexit

There’s not much I can add that hasn’t already been said. But Larry Summers makes a point that touches on the themes in We Wanted Workers, so I wanted to highlight the point:

The political challenge in many countries going forward is to develop a “responsible nationalism”.  It is clear that there is a hunger on the part of electorates, if not the Davos set within countries, for approaches to policy that privilege local interests and local people over more cosmopolitan concerns…We now know that neither denying the hunger, or explaining that it is based on fallacy is a viable strategy.

As I put it in the title to the concluding chapter of my book, policy makers face a very simple question: “Who are you rooting for?”

The British people had a choice, a choice put to them in a very stark fashion by the long list of “expert” doomsayers who supported Remain (and who obviously benefited from the way things were yesterday). The more I thought about the arguments made by the experts, the more I felt that a typical voter’s choice could be summarized by:

Give me liberty…or give me a 1.2% higher per-capita GDP.

The British people chose wisely.

Glenn and I

Glenn Loury and I talked about immigration last week as part of his Bloggingheads series, with much of the discussion focusing on the themes emphasized in my forthcoming book, We Wanted Workers. Glenn had read the book, and it truly made my day (heck, no, it made my month) when he told me it was “very impressive.” The discussion touches on many interesting points, both in terms of immigration research and immigration policy.

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Here’s the link to the video. Unfortunately, I do not have a clue about how to embed the video in a WordPress blog.


Channeling Krugman

Paul Krugman had a very interesting blog post about trade yesterday. Here’s some of what he said (but it’s definitely worth reading in full):

Much of the elite defense of globalization is basically dishonest: false claims of inevitability, scare tactics (protectionism causes depressions!), vastly exaggerated claims for the benefits of trade liberalization…, hand-waving away the large distributional effects that are what standard models actually predict…The conventional case for trade liberalization relies on the assertion that the government could redistribute income to ensure that everyone wins…But it is fair to say that the case for more trade agreements…is very, very weak.

I sent the copyedited draft of my forthcoming book, We Wanted Workers, back to Norton a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t help but have a feeling of déjà vu as I read Krugman’s take on the elite argument for free trade. Sections of my book, particularly the policy discussion in the final chapter entitled Who Are You Rooting For? read just like Krugman’s post–except I need to change a word here and there. Here’s my rewriting, where I’ve underlined my changes:

Much of the elite defense of immigration is basically dishonest: false claims of inevitability, scare tactics (if you disagree, you are a racist or a xenophobe), vastly exaggerated claims for the benefits from immigration,…hand-waving away the large distributional effects that are what standard models actually predict…The conventional case for more immigration relies on the assertion that the government could redistribute income to ensure that everyone wins…But it is fair to say that the case for more immigration…is very, very weak.

We are living in interesting times indeed.

UPDATE: Some people seem to have totally missed the point of this post and interpreted it as saying that Krugman had written something similar to what I had written. Perhaps I didn’t phrase the post carefully, but that is a completely wrong interpretation. Note that I introduce the last quote in the post as my “rewriting” of what Krugman wrote. The point I am trying to make is that the exaggerations that people make in defense of trade (and that Krugman so nicely captured) are the same as the exaggerations made in defense of immigration.

On Mariel

A couple of readers of early drafts of We Wanted Workers made some comments last spring that planted an idea in my head: perhaps it was time to revisit Mariel and see what we could learn from that supply shock with the hindsight of 25-years worth of additional research.

I resisted the idea for a while, as I thought it would be a complete waste of my time. But it kept nagging me. So one Sunday morning I wake up, go downstairs to my office, and start looking at the March Current Population Surveys (CPS) for the 1980s. Within an hour, my monitor was flashing a graph like this one:

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And I remember saying out loud “What the heck!” except I didn’t use those words. I then spent the entire summer working time-and-a-half on my Mariel paper. The paper went through several rounds. I got a lot of feedback from many friends who read early drafts. And I even did something that I had never done before: I hired someone to replicate the entire exercise from scratch just to make sure it was right!

Continue reading “On Mariel”

We Wanted Workers

In early fall 2016, Norton will be publishing my latest book: We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative.

I am really excited about it. It is by far the most readable thing I have written, and the most fun too. Three main themes run through the book:

  1. The “economistic” view of immigrants as a collection of robotic workers, who move from one place to another to fill slots in an assembly line, can lead us astray when we evaluate the impact of immigration. As Max Frisch quipped, “We wanted workers, but we got people instead.”
  2. The impact of immigration on the receiving country depends on the conditions that motivated the exodus, and on the conditions immigrants encounter when they arrive in their new homes. Some of those conditions make immigration more beneficial, but others make it more costly.
  3. It is crucial to examine exactly how it is that we come to learn certain things about immigration. Much depends on the assumptions made, on the way data are manipulated, and on the results that are hidden away in the attic of inconvenient truths.

And all this is presented in the context of many personal and professional anecdotes that describe the evolution of my thinking on immigration.

Can’t wait till it comes out!