American immigration in two graphs
August 21, 2012 Leave a comment
Via Planet Money, this is rather interesting:
Call me crazy, but I do have to wonder if anti-immigration sentiment would be as strong if the 2010 bar looked more like the 1910 bar.
On a related note, very nice column from James Surowiecki on just how non-sensical our current immigration policy is when it comes to educated, skilled labor:
Since the nineteen-sixties, U.S. immigration policy has been designed to encourage the immigration of family members rather than of skilled workers. In 1990, the number of employment-based permanent visas was capped at a hundred and forty thousand a year. Astonishingly, that number hasn’t changed since, even though the U.S. economy is now sixty-six per cent bigger, and, with the rise of India and China, the supply of global talent has grown sharply. We also cap the visa allocation for each country, regardless of size, at seven per cent of the total number of visas, so only a fraction of the applications from China and India get approved. (The number of temporary work visas is also capped, at eighty-five thousand a year.) As of 2006, according to one study, more than half a million highly skilled immigrants were waiting for permanent visas, and the backlog in some visa categories was decades long. Other countries, meanwhile, have positioned themselves to benefit from the talent we’re turning away. Australia allows in almost as many skilled workers annually as the U.S., despite having a fraction of the population, and Canada has aggressively courted the highly skilled, nearly quadrupling the percentage of permanent visas it grants for employment…
The kicker is, that despite bipartisan agreement on this, nothing is happening:
In theory, fixing the system should not be a tough thing to do, since the immigration of highly skilled workers is one of the few issues on which there is genuine bipartisan support. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, remarkably enough, have called for streamlining the system in similar ways, and John Conyers, a Democrat, and John Chaffetz, a Republican, are sponsoring a recent House bill that would make it easier for small-business owners in the U.S. to get green cards. The catch is that, for all this bipartisan comity, there is no urgency in Washington on the issue, and voter anxiety about the weak economy and the scarcity of jobs gives politicians an excuse for inaction. Tough times have always lent themselves to nativist sentiments and closed-door policies. But in the case of highly skilled immigrants these policies are a recipe for stagnation. The U.S. is excellent at importing cheap products from the rest of the world. Let’s try importing some human capital instead.
This is just a dreadful waste. Smart, educated, entrepreneurial people who want to work here and we are turning them away. A national economy is not a zero sum game. Bringing in more educated and highly skilled immigrants grows the economy and is good for all of us.