326 February 1, 1984 NINE MYTHS ABOUT IMMIGRATION Julian L. Simon Senior Fellow INTRODUCTION Immigration is one of the most complicated topics of our times. Society and Congress are struggling with the problem in the form of the Simpson-Mazzoli bill, which is now before the Senate and House S. 529 and H.R. 1510 The issue of immigration seems to pit two fundamental values--lending a helping hand to strangers a nd ensuring the economic self-interest of family and community--against one another. Also involved are values that may not appeal to all but which are in no way irrational, such as maintaining some degree of cultural or racial homogeneity in the country ( Margaret Thatcher has spoken for that in the case of Great Britain) and keeping a particular political balance.
Wherever it may lead, a debate on W.S. immigration policy ought to be based on facts. Regrettably, a number of myths about immigration work agai nst a reasoned debate. The sum of these myths is that immigrants lower the standard of living of U.S natives. This simply is not supported by the evidence. In the interests of an informed debate on immigration, these myths must be examined MYTH #1: IMMIGR A NTS ARE WELFARE ABUSERS It is frequently alleged that immigrants no sooner arrive in the U.S. than they become public charges, draining welfare money from the U.S. taxpayers and paying no taxes. Solid evidence gives the lie to this charge Julian Simon, "I m migrants, Taxes, and Welfare in the U.S forthcoming in Population and Development Review analysis in this article of the Census Bureau survey described in Myth ill The following information is an 2 In 1976 the Census Bureau interviewed 156,000 households i ncluding about 15,000 immigrant families) to learn about 1975 family income and welfare services patterns. From this sample was constructed a picture of lifetime economic behavior by assum ing that the information on immigrants who had been here, say, two years, or ten years, as of 1975 described the representative immigrant family after two years, or after ten years, and so on.
The services that most often catch the public eye are welfare and supplemental security, unemployment compensation, aid to depend ent.children, and food stamps. The average native-born U.S. family received $498 from these programs in 1975 (calculations include families getting no assistance The average for immigrant families that arrived between 1950 and 1974 was $5
48. Not much difference. For immigrant and native families of similar educa tion and age, there is no difference.
Of course there may be some systematic abuses of the welfare system by immigrants. But the U.S. legislative system surely can devise adequate remedies. Senat or Charles Percy (R-Ill for example, sponsored a bill strengthening the requirement that sponsors of immigrants stand behind them financially to prevent their entering in order to go onto welfare. Nor would it be un-American to require immigrants to provi d e the American public some service in return for the benefits they receive. In the past, serving in the Army was such an example; it also had the side effect of quickly Americanizing the immigrants who served family's first five years in the U.S. costs sl i ghtly less than 859 for the average native family, because immigrants tend to come before they have children or while the children are still young. After that, school expenditures for immigrant families are higher than for native families, rising from 1,0 6 8 to $1,237 during the next 15 years. (The difference is not that immigrants have many children, but that the average native family is older with fewer children still in school Providing school for immigrant children during an immigrant When public retire m ent programs are included--such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--'immigrant families on average are seen to receive much less in welfare payments and services than do average native families. Immigrants in fact lessen the Social Security burden upon native workers by contributing to the fund while not drawing from it And if there is any single factor that cramps government economic policies right now it is payments through Social Security, other pension plans, and other assistance to the elderly .
Immigrants typically arrive young and strong. Native U.S families received in 1975 on average $735 for Social Security 167 for Medicare and $20 for Medicaid, a total of $9
22. Immigrant families received a total of 92 during the first five years in the U.S 227 in the second five years 435 in the third five years, and 520 the fourth and fifth five-year periods. The 3 difference in favor of natives is large. Immigrants thereby benefit natives.
But what about Social Security when immigrants reach retire me nt age? The answer depends not on entitlements or legal obliga tions, but on the flow of real resources from workers to retirees In this way, the children of retired immigrants support their parents with their taxes, as in the cae of natives. Hence the im migrant retirees do not increase the burden on natives.
In summing the figures for all the transfers and services the average immigrant family is found to receive $1,404 in welfare services in years 1 to 5 1,941 in years 6 to 10 2,247 in years 11 to 15, and $2,279 in years 16 to
25. Native families overall average the same 2,279, considerably more-than the immigrants receive during.their early years in the U.S. Figures for these early years are more relevant because in making rational policy decisions the distant future is weighted less heavily than the near future MYTH #2: ILLEGALS MAKE ESPECIALLY HEAVY USE OF WELFARE SERVICES Contrary to common belief, illegal immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere receive little in welfare services because of their illeg a l status. Labor researchers David North and Marion Houston of the New Trans Century Foundation found the following proportions of illegals using services: Free medical, 5 percent; unemployment insurance, 4 percent; food stamps, 1 percent; welfare payments , 3r percent; child schooling, 4 percent.2 Practically no illegals receive the costliest service of all--Social Security. But 77 percent of illegal workers paid Social Security taxes, and 73 percent had federal income tax withheld. Several other studies us i ng a variety of research methods reveal similar results. The low use of social services is largely because the illegals are afraid of being apprehended. And among the illegal Mexicans more than 80 percent are male, half are single (most of the married men leave their wives and children in Mexico), and most are youthful (less 10 percent of the workers are over 35) and need few services MYTH #3: IMMIGRANTS PAY LESS THAN THEIR SHARE OF TAXES If immigrants paid relatively little in taxes, it could be argued.th a t they still burden natives, even with fewer welfare services for immigrants than for natives. While there is no direct information on taxes paid, data on family earnings allow a reliable estimate David S. North and Marian F. Houston, The Characteristics and Role of Illegal Aliens in the U.S. Labor Market: ton: Linton and Company, March 1976).
An Exploratory Study (Washing4 Within three to five years after entry, immigrant family earnings reach and pass those of the average native family because of the var iance in age composition of native and immigrant families. The average native family paid 3,008 in taxes in 19
75. In comparison, immigrant families here 10 years paid 3,359, those here 11 to 15 years paid $3,564, and those here 16 to 25 years paid $3,5
92. Such substantial differences benefit natives.
Assuming 20 percent of taxes finance activities that are little affected by population size (for example, maintaining the armed forces and the Statue of Liberty), the data on services used and taxes paid, taken together, show substantial differences that benefit natives: an. average of 1,354 yearly for years 1 to 5, and $1,329, $1,535 and $1,353 for years 6 to 10, 11 to 15, and 16 to 25 respectively. These are the amounts by which each additional immigrant family enriches U.S. public coffers. Evaluat ing the future stream of differences as one would a dam or harbor the present value of an immigrant family discounted at 3 percent inflation adjusted) was 20,600 in 1975 dollars, almost two years average earnin g s for a native family: at 6 percent the present value is 15,800, and $12,400 at 9 percent MYTH #4: IMMIGRANTS CAUSE NATIVES TO LOSE JOBS The most politically powerful argument against admitting immigrants has been that they take jobs held by natives and t hereby increase native unemployment. The logic is simple: If the number of jobs is fixed, and immigrants occupy some jobs then there are fewer jobs available for natives.
In the immediate present, the demand for any particular sort of worker is indeed infl exible. And, therefore, additional immigrants in a given occupation, in theory, must have some negative impact on wages and/or employment among people in that occupation. For example, the large recent influx of foreign physicians means additional competit ion for U.S. physicians.
There is good reason to believe that U.S. physicians will earn less because of immigrant physicians. Such negative effects upon particular occupations could be avoided only if immigrants were to come into all occupations in proport ion to the size of those occupations. Workers whose occupations immigrants enter dispro portionately can therefore be expected to complain.
Theory says that there must be some unemployment in some sectors. But theory does not say whether the effect will b e huge or trivial. For this, empirical research is needed. The effect is difficult to measure, because natives move away from areas with high unemployment to areas where it is lower, and immigrants move there, too, thereby obscuring the impact of immigrat ion.
Nevertheless, if immigrants were to cause large amounts of unem ployment in particular industries, the phenomenon would surely be noticeable. Yet no empirical study has found such unemployment in noticeable amounts. 5 Even in the few sectors, such as the restaurant and hotel industries, where immigrants concentrate, there tends not to be a deleterious effect on natives because natives do not want these jobs. Evidence comes from experiments conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service togeth e r with San Diego County. In, one case, 2,154 illegal aliens were removed from jobs, and the California State Human Resources Agency tried without success to fill the jobs with U.S. citizens. The County of San Diego Human Resources Agency reported Some of t he reasons for the failure were 1) most em ployers paid less than the minimum wage rate, (2) the job categories were not appealing to the local resident a matter of prestige and (3) applicants were dis couraged by not only the low wages but also the diffi culty of some jobs, and the long hours demanded by the employers.
Research also does not show across-the-board unemployment caused by immigrants, either in the U.S. as a whole or in parti cular areas of relatively high immigration. Heretofore such studies have been rather casual. Therefore, research asistant Stephen Moore and the author recently mounted a systematic attempt seems fair to conclude therefore that; while' in theory immigration ought to produce some unemployment in the short run, the amount i s in fact negligible. And in the long run, when there is not even a theoretical reason to believe that immigration causes unemployment, there is no reason at all to think that it does to detect whether such immigrant-caused unemployment exists in I signifi c ant amount. Still no such effect is observable. It One reason that unemployment is not caused is that potential immigrants have considerable awareness of labor-market conditions in the U.S. and tend not to come if there is little demand for their skills. Also, immigrants tend to be varied in their skills and therefore do not have a disproportionate impact on a few industries.
At the same time=-this point is crucial, but too little understood-immigrants increase demand for labor across the range of occupations, because immigrants consume goods as well as produce them.
Another reason, then, for the absence of unemployment caused by immigrants is that they not only take jobs, they make jobs.
Immigrants not only create new jobs indirectly with their spend ing , they create new jobs directly with new businesses, which they are more likely than natives to start A Canadian government survey, which should be similar to U.S. experience, finds that almost five percent of the 2,037 immigrants surveyed had started M. V ic. Villalpondo, et al A Study of the Socio-Economic Impact of Illegal Aliens, County of San Diego San Diego: Human Resources Agency January 1977). 6 their own businesses within the first three years in Canada. Not only did they employ themselves, they em p loyed others, I1creatingl1 a total of 606 jobs. Expressed as a proportion of the 2,037 total immigrants, roughly 30 percent as many jobs were created from scratch as total jobs were held by immigrants. Furthermore these numbers rose rapidly after the thre e -year study period after one year there were 71 self-employed immigrants creating 264 jobs, compared with the 91 and 606 qespectively after three years The businesses immigrants start are small at first, but small businesses are the most important source of new jobs according to a recent MIT study.
Historically, migrants have tended to enter in good times and leave during bad, thus buffering unemployment for citizens another positive effect of immigrants upon the labor market.
Furthermore, a much lower pr oportion of immigrants work for government than do natives (perhaps 8 percent compared to 16 percent). This indicates a relatively low burden on the govern ment to help supply jobs even after they have been in the U.S many years. This should have a benefi c ial effect upon overall native chances for employment. It also benefits natives because a disproportionately small number of immigrants are making use of public productive capital MYTH #5: IMMIGRANTS PUSH WAGES WAY DOWN The impact of immigration is likely to be greater on wages than on unemployment rates, because potential immigrants with skills that are in low demand choose not to migrate, and those with saleable skills gravitate to industries where there are jobs. This will have some downward pressure on wages. For example, immigrant physicians are more likely to reduce a native physician's yearly income than to throw him or her out of work.
Economists Barton Smith and Robert Newman of the University of Houston found that adjusted wages are just 8 percent lower in the Texas border citiesf4 where the proportion of Mexicans is relatively high, compared to Texas cities away from the border where the proportion of Mexicans is much lower, a considerably smaller difference than they had expected to find apparen t difference is accounted for by a lower cost of living in the border cities Much of the Barton Smith and Robert Newman Depressed Wages Along the U.S.-Mexican Border: An Empirical Analysis Economic Inquiry, January 1977, pp 56-66 7 MYTH #6: IMMIGRANTS ARE "HUDDLED MASSES"--UNEDUCATED, UNSKILLED AND "TIRED"
The belief that immigrants arrive now as they did in the past, with little or no education, few marketable skills, and in a generally tired and depressed condition is one of the most powerful, least accurate, and most persevering myths about immigra tion. This description is found in many books and articles including Oscar Handlinls famous, The Upro~ted history and in almost all places at almost all times, is that immigrants are just entering into the prime of work life is the very best time to make a maxi m um contribution in all ways to the country receiving them. In contrast, the U.S. resident population is rapidly aging. But the immigrants are concentrated in their twenties and thirties, when they are flexible about job and geographical location, and ther efore contribute importantly to the constant adjustment of the economy to changing conditions.
They are of the age of greatest physical and mental vigor. And in this age bracket they contribute heavily to old-age support while requiring relatively little w elfare service from the public coffers. See Table 1 for the age distributions of the U.S public at large of and recent immigrants The central fact about immigrants now, as throughout U.S.
This I I TABLE 1 DISTRIBUTIONS BY AGE OF LEGAL IMMIGRANTS AND U.S. POPULATION U.S. Population, 1970* Legal Immigrants to U.S 1967-1973 0-19 20-39 40-59 60 38.8 25.7 22.2 14.2 34.5 46.4 13.9 4.3 Department of Commerce, Social Indicators (Washington, D.C U.S. Govern ment Printing Office, 1976), p. 32 Charles B. Keely and E llen P. Kraly, "Recent Net Alien Immigration to the U.S Its Impact on Population Growth and Native Fertility talk to the Population Association of America, 1978.
Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1951). 8 Even more surprising is th at immigrants on average have as much education as do natives. Contemporary cohorts of immigrants include somewhat larger proportions of persons of low skill and low education than does the native labor force, but they contain a much larger proportion of t hose of high skill and high educa tion-physicians, engineers, scientific researchers, and the like-than does the native population. And recent research by economist P. J. Hill of Montana State University and others shows that even before the turn of the c e ntury, cohorts of immigrants compared favorably with the. native populations with respect to education and skill.6 This makes sense. A person with little education and skill is not necessarily stupid, and understands that life without saleable human capit a l is particularly tough in a new and strange environment, and therefore that it is wiser to stay at home. On the other hand, it is sensible for a person with a good amount of saleable human capital to take the chance and immigrate, because such a person h as a good chance to improve his or her lot by moving to a new and richer country.
Along with youth and skill, immigrants tend to bring an unusually high degree of self-reliance, initiative, and innovative flair. Again, it makes sense that it is such people , rather than the dull and frightened, who have the courage and the belief in themselves necessary to the commitment to the awesome change that international migration represents MYTH #7: IMMIGRANTS INCREASE PRESSURE UPON RESOURCES AND ENVIRON MENT Still a nother unfounded charge is that immigrants create a squeeze in natural resources for natives. For example, Zero Population Growth's honorary president, Paul R. Ehrlich, talks about the effect of additional people on the Ilperilously shrink ing water suppl y in th1.s country the competition they'll cause for housing and jobs." The basis is the assertion that "The United States in less than 50 years will be more crowded, more polluted, more ecologically unstable more prone to political unrest, more burdened w i th social stress and far, far more precarious than we can possibly imag111e.I And our food supply. Think of These predictions are without foundation. The water and food supplies consumed in the U.S. have been improving in past decades by every reasonable measure of quantity and purity though this appears to be little known. The air, moreover, is I Peter J. Hill Relative Skill and Income Levels of Native and Foreign-Born Workers in the United States Explorations in Economic History, 12 1975, pp. 47-60.
Paul R. Ehrlich in a fund-raising letter for Zero Population Growth, no date. 9 becoming less polluted, according ,to the official Pollutant Standard Index prepared by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.8 And over the long run, natural resources are becoming less scarce rather than more scarce, as indicated by the funda mental economic measure of cost.
But not all such propositions about the effects of immigrants upon resources can be rebutted so easily. For example, consider this statement in a 1981-19 82 article called I'Immigration and the American Consciencell by The Environmental Fund: "Had the United States stabilized its population in 1970, we could have the same level of energy consumption.and standard of living as we do today without any Iranian oil or a single nuclear power plant statement probably is true. But even more probably, and much more important, the statement also is terribly misleading The One important flaw in the statement is that the eleven years it encompasses is much too short a t ime for the most important effects of population change to have their effects a quarter century to mature into producers of goods and ideas; even immigrants may require several years to reach their full productivity Babies take It takes even longer for a c rucial historical cycle to take place: (a) an immigrant swelled population leads to greater use of natural resources b) prices of raw materials then rise c) the price rise and the resultant fear about scarcity impel individuals to seek new sources of raw m aterials, new production technologies, and new substitutes for the resource, and (d eventually the price of the service provided by the resource in question-for example, the price of energy whether produced from wood, coal, oil, or nuclear power--falls lo w er than it was before the temporary scarcity began quite indirect. Yet it has been the mainspring of economic advance for 5,000 years. It is, however, obscured by the above quotation, which makes it seem as if the main effect of the additional people is b ad. In fact, after a relatively short time, the main effect is that people are better off than if the whole cycle beginning with more people had not taken place.
A stationary population in the long run would have a lower economic level than a growing popul ation. 100 or 500 years later, or today, of stabilizing world population in 1000 B.C 1 A.D 1000 A.D 1750 A.D or 1900 A.D. A key characteristic of a high level of economic civilization is that it contains the capacity to resolve newly arising problems more quickly than did lower economic civilizations. For example, the incidence of famine has declined sharply in the past century because of modern roads and other transportation systems. Food This process takes time and is Imagine the results For a discussion of these EPA findings, see Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource (Princeton, N.J Princeton University Press, 1981). 10 scarcity as a result of rapid population growth took much longer to remedy in 1300 A.D. or 1600 A.D. than now, because of today's systemat ic ways of finding and applying new knowledge that will meliorate the scarcity.
Much of The Ultimate Resource shows that natural resources including energy) are, with passing decades, less rather than more of a constraint to U.S. and world growth. To cite such llimits" in discussions of national policy is unsound geology and biology, incorrect history, and terrible economics. The progres sive improvement that has occurred in the world's resource avail ability would not have taken place if population densit y had remained at the lower levels,of earlier centuries and millennia MYTH #8: IMMIGRANTS CAUSE DIMINISHING RETURNS The heart of the Malthusian objection to immigration is capital di1ution.I Ildiminishing returns" output per worker will fall. This argument is so marvelously simple, direct, and common-sensical that it has great seductive power, especially to academics. The Malthusian notion therefore is grist for any family newspaper. The arguments that demonstrate the inapplicability of Malthusian capital d i lution in the context of immigration are relatively complex and indirect As a consequence, editors who fear that such arguments will tax the attention and thought of their readers and listeners protect their audiences from such a terrible fate. And the fi eld is therefore left to simple--though incorrect--Malthusianism.
Nowadays the most important capital 1,s human capital--educa tion and the skills that adults own and carry with them--rather than the 'Icapitalist" supplying all the capital. Still, there is some harm to natives caused by the presence of more workers but the same capital This means that because of the theory of If the private sector of the economy were like the government sector--where workers' pay is assumed equal to the full value of what they produce, with nothing left for the owner of the capital then capital dilution would indeed lower average native income.
But in the private sector, additional workers imply higher earnings for owners about equal to the loss of earnings by other workers.
This trade-off leaves overall native per capita income roughly unchanged extent that the classes are separate, there is a transfer from workers' pockets to owners' pockets. But in fact much of America's private capital is owned directly by Ilworkersl' t hrough pension funds and by way of the taxes paid on interest and dividends.
Hence the loss to the "worker" class is unclear Yet "workers1' suffer as ltcapitalistsl' gain. That is, to the As to special groups of workers, especially low- income earners, the negative effect is probably less than commonly 11 thought and may be nonexistent. Because legal immigrants arrive with considerable education and skills and enter a wide variety of occupations, they hurt no occupation or income level m u ch even in the short run And to repeat, in the long run, occupa tions on average benefit from additional jobs created by the purchases made by immigrants to about the same extent that immi- grants take existing jobs within the occupations. In short immigr a nts make jobs as well as take jobs Regarding the public capital used by immigrants, there I I should be concern about the additional capital outlays needed to equip immigrants--the extra schoolrooms, hospital beds, firehouses and the like. Not relevant is the use of public goods not affect I ing natives' use or pocketbooks--looking at the Washington Monument or riding on a lightly used interstate highway derable extent, the U.S is on a pay-as-you-go basis with respect to capital expenditures: The debt serv i ce on past public borrow ings covers. much of the outlay on new capital their taxes, immigrants pay "rent" on public facilities. This is an important additional reason why Malthusian capital dilution is not a crucial problem And to a consi Therefore, thro u gh I l 9: THE U.S. IS FLOODED BY MEXICAN ILLEGALS The number of aliens illegally residing and working in the United States is an issue that enters into the discussion of immigration in many ways. It is the main focus of the writings of those who oppose im m igration, and it is used to generate strong feelings on the grounds that it causes a breakdown in the law and order of the country and corrupts attitudes toward the law. rendered vulnerable to invasion or other unnamed dangers because it has "lost control of its borders." The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and The Environmental Fund (TEF), the two organizations most active in fighting against immigration dwell upon the word llcontrol.ll This plays upon a fear of chaos and social breakdow n by natives due to illegals is a major objection to immigration generally, including that by labor unions evidence for the largest and most frightening estimates of illegals is flimsy or nonexistent In general there is a strong negative relationship betwe e n the quality of the research and the size of the estimate with its 1970s estimates that there were 4 to 12 million illegals in the U.S. But a study by the Bureaueof the Census staff at the request of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee The i s sue also is used to suggest that the United States is And the supposed large-scale loss of jobs Are such arguments justified by the data? Clearly not. The The Immigration and Naturalization Service frightened many 12 Policyg noted that this estimate was b a sed on nothing more than an impression derived from the data on the number of apprehensions of illegals either crossing the border or on the job. The INS gave no evidence in support of its estimate. And apprehension records are obviously a fallacious basi s for any such estimate.
For example, the same person might be apprehended several times during a single week Later the INS shifted its estimate to 8.2 million persons as of mid-1975, deriving the figure from a Lesko Associates study it commissioned.1 The basis for the estimate was the "Delphi technique This technique may be appropriate for such tasks as forecasting technological developments. But it is an absolutely unreliable and inappropriate estimation method for a subject such as the number of illegal s in the U.S estimate Ifnot analytically defensible.lf1l Yet for a long time these figures were the basis for much of the political debate on Even Lesko called the the subject.
The INS then offered an estimate of 6 million kllegals as of 1976. estimate the number of illegals residing in their districts.
According to the Bureau of the Census description This. was derived by asking INS District Directors to The district officers were asked to provide, in addition to estimates of illegals for their districts a descrip tion of the methodology used to generate the estimates.
None gave specific procedures Rather, all but one re ferred to the 'experience' of officiais as the basis for the estimate; the other claimed no 'scientific basis at all for his estimate. T hus, the overall esti- mate may be characterized as 'synthetic speculation..'l Ingenious statisticians have recently tackled the problem in a variety of interesting ways, including analysis of alien deaths in the United States,13 changes in Mexico's popul a tion,l* com Y Jacob S. Siegal, Jeffrey S. Passel, and J. Gregory Robinson, "Preliminary Review'of Existing Studies of the Number of Illegal Residents in the United States," in U.S. Immigration Policy and the National Interest Appendix E to .the Staff Repo rt of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy Papers on Illegal Migration to the United States April 1981 lo Lesko Associates, 19
75. Final Report: Basic Data and Guidance Required to Implement a Major Illegal Alien Study During Fiscal Year 1976, pre pared for Office of Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Immigration and Natural ization Service, Washington, D.C., October 1975 l1 Ibid Gal, et al op. cit p. 17 l3 J. Gregory Robinson Estimating the Approximate Size of the Illegal Alien Population in the United States by the Comparative Trend Analysis of Age-Specific Death Rates," unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Philadelphia, Pennsyl vania, April 26-28, 1979 Howard Goldberg Estimates of Emigr a tion from Mexico and Illegal Entry into the United States, 1960-1970, by the Residual Method," unpublished graduate research paper, Center for Population Research, Georgetown Uni versity, Washington, D.C. 1974 l4 13 parisons of data (such as Social Securi t y and income tax records in which illegal aliens are fairly sure to be counted,15 analysis of changes in the Mexican-origin population reported by the Current Population Survey,16 and surveys of persons returning to Mexico, and of Mexican families, concer ning their migration histories.
The harvest of findings from this body of work is as follows The careful survey of these and other studies by Siegal et al. concludes that !!The total number of illegal residents in the United States for some recent year, su ch as 1978, is almost certainly below 6.0 million, and may be substantially less, possibly only 3.5 to 5.0 million.1118 A considerable proportion of the illegals are not Mexican The available evidence indicates that the size of the Mexican population livi n g illegally in the United States is smaller than popular estimates suggest. The Mexican compo nent of the illegally resident population is almost certainly less than 3.0 million, and may be substantially less, possibly only 1.5 to 2.5 million.11 Of the Me x icans illegally in the United States at any given time, a very large proportion are here for a matter of months and then return voluntarily. "The gross movement into the United States of Mexican illegals is considerable as is reflected in the large number s of apprehensions made by INS, but this Iimmigration' is largely offset by a consi derable movement in the opposite direction Apparently most of the Mexican nationals who enter the United States illegally in any year return to Mexico I1 1 9 15 16 17 18 19 Clarice Lancaster and Frederick J. Scheuren Counting the Uncountable Illegals: Some Initial Statistical Speculations Employing Capture-Recapture Techniques 1977 Proceedings of the Social Statistics Section, Part I American Statistical Association, 1978, p p. 530-535; Alexander Korns Cyclical Fluctuations in the Difference Between the Payroll and Household Measures of Employment Survey of Current Business, May 1979, pp. 14-44 55.
David M. Heer What is the Annual Net Flow of Undocumented Mexican Immi grants to the United States Demography, August 1979, pp. 417-423.
Mexico, Centro Nacional de Informacich y Estadfisticas del Trabajo, En Volumen de la Migracih de Mexicanos no- Documentos a 10s Estados- Unidos Nuevas Hip&tesis, by Manual Garcia y Griego, December 1979; and Mexico Centro Nacional de Informacih y Estadisticas del Trabajo, Los Trabaja dores Mexicanos en 10s Estados Unidos: Primeros Resultados de 1a.Encuesta Nacional de Emigraci&,,by Carlos H. Zazueta and Rodolfo Corona, December 1979.
Siegal, et al op. cit p. 19.
Siegal, et al op. cit pp. 33-34. 14 4) Korns' study of illegal-alien employment even suggests that there has been no increase in the total number of illegals since an expansion that occurred between 1964 and '19
69. The Census Bureau's Ass ociate Director for Demographic Fields George E. Hall, commented that "TO date, the Census Bureau has not been able to detect explosive growth in the illegal population in any of its data collection systems.1120 It is because most immigrants who enter ill e gally leave when their jobs end or when they have earned what they came to earn usually after a half-year or less, that there can be a constant inflow and yet little or no increase in the total number of immigrant residents 5) In contrast to the Mexicans, the non-Mexican illegals--who typically either overstay their visa periods or enter with fraudulent documents, rather than by crossing the border clandestinely without documents--.are much less likely to return to the home countries Hence, non-Mexican ill egal immigration may add to the permanent resident population to a far greater extent than the Mexican migration flows I conclude Siege1 et al on the basis of the studies surveyed.
This last point suggests that expensive efforts to reduce clandestine border crossing may be a waste.
CONCLUSION Just about all the individual economic objections to immi grants are without factual foundation. No mention has been made moreover, of the benefits from immigration. And there are very large benefits. Improved productivity, as a result of the i n creased production volume that flows from immigrant purchasing power as well as from.the additional supply of ingenious inventive minds that immigrants bring, is one of the most important such benefits. It quickly dominates all the short-run costs.
Exact ly how beneficial immigrants are to the U.S. society and economy may be debated. What is certain, however, is that many of the alleged costs of immigrants are simply unfounded hollow myths O George E. Hall, testimony before the House Subcommittee on Censu s and Population, April 27, 1981, p. 8.
I Julian Simon is a Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a professor at the University of Maryland.