Seeking Easy Answers?
Economist Tyler Cowen has a piece up in the NYT today which suggests that all we have to do to fix our immigration problems with Mexico is make sure they get an education and import anyone who wishes to come legally. Uh-huh...
The Immigration Answer? It’s in Mexico’s Classrooms
Poorly functioning Mexican and Latino educational systems are a central problem behind current immigration dilemmas, and the United States is partly responsible. If the United States took in a higher ratio of legal immigrants, and required more education, the entire North American region would be better off.
A high school diploma brings higher wages in Mexico, but in the United States the more educated migrants do not earn noticeably more than those who have less education. Education does not much raise the productivity of hard physical labor. The result is that the least educated Mexicans have the most reason to cross the border. In addition, many Mexicans, knowing they may someday go to the United States, see less reason to invest in education.
Mexican immigrants used to have higher-than-average levels of education, but today the average male Mexican migrant has lower-than-average education by Mexican standards.
David McKenzie of the World Bank, and Hillel Rapoport, a lecturer in economics at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, document this shift and show that extensive social networks of fellow countrymen make it increasingly easy for male migrants with little education to find apartments and jobs in the United States (“Self-selection patterns in Mexico-U.S. migration: The role of migration networks,” Less-educated migrants are more likely to bring crime and social problems, and they are less likely to assimilate. *snip*
Shutting the Mexican border is probably not possible, and it would paralyze American businesses and agriculture. A guest worker program without restrictions on education might be better than doing nothing, but would not solve the negative educational dynamic. Many guest workers would stay on past the expiration of their visas, again shifting the ratio back toward illegal immigration. Furthermore, workers tied to a single job, as is the case for most guest worker programs, are unlikely to put down roots.
The United States needs the courage to legalize a higher number of immigrant arrivals. The problems with current illegal migration are real. But most Americans benefit from Latino migration, even of the illegal kind, and they could benefit much more from legal and better-educated arrivals.
Now, let's wave the garlic before this economic vampires nose. The problem is cultural, or why does he think that Hispanics have such a frighteningly high drop out rate for those born here in the states?
The danger of seeing this as merely an economic equation to be solved rather than what it actually is, a fundamental cultural mismatch is that if you only look at economics you aren't seeing or acknowledging any of the cultural problems that crop up along the way.
If education were the solution and Mexican immigrants used to be more educated doesn't it stand to reason that education alone isn't the answer? If it were wouldn't it be solving the problem on this side of the border? Or does that make too much sense?
Mexico is a dysfunctional country with a dysfunctional culture. Without taking that into account you are at best pissing into the wind. Then again that seems to be what economists do best, perhaps we should allow Tyler his ridiculous rants and make an agreement to soundly ignore them.
For the good of the country.