Those opposed to immigration – or better to high or increased levels of immigration – often, but wrongly, argue that a large scale presence of immigrants forces down the wages of natives and drives expensive native workers, especially the low-skilled, out of the job market. Or that it ruins social security systems, destroys the native culture and leads to higher crime rates.
There’s also a less common and a priori sensible argument regarding education. When there are many or rising numbers of immigrant children, then these children compete for schooling resources with native children. One can’t assume that those resources go up at the same rate as the total number of children. Immigrants are generally poorer than the average citizens and hence pays less in taxes. It’s therefore not silly to assume that higher rates of immigration put a strain on education resources. If that is the case, then the quality of education may go down, including for native children.
That is a potentially strong argument against an open borders policy or against relaxed immigration restrictions. Yet, surprisingly, you hardly ever hear it. Maybe that’s because it’s not as strong as it looks. After all, there can also be an opposite effect: higher rates of immigration may encourage native children to study harder – to complete high school and to go to university – so that they can avoid competing with immigrant high-school dropouts in the labor market.
Fortunately, there’s a paper here (possibly gated) that looks at those two competing effects, and finds that
both channels are operative and that the net effect is positive, particularly for native-born blacks, though not for native-born Hispanics. An increase of one percentage point in the share of immigrants in the population aged 11-64 increases the probability that natives aged 11-17 eventually complete 12 years of schooling by 0.3 percentage points, and increases the probability for native-born blacks by 0.4 percentage points.
More posts in this series are here.