What is the dollar value of U.S. citizenship?

by on February 24, 2016 at 6:04 pm in Data Source, Economics, Law | Permalink

Neil Munro writes to me with a question:

…[what is] the dollar value of U.S. citizenship, because of its financial, security, status and other benefits for an immigrant form China or India?

Do you know of people who have tried to calculate the value? Net-present value, I’d guess.

There is the famous paper by Michael Clemens, but I don’t think it calculates such a number straight up.  How about the lead Sumption link here?  Do any of you know the best answer?

1 Ray Lopez February 24, 2016 at 6:08 pm

From Canada and Hong Kong, I recall reading it was over 100k. Neil Munro, no relation to Robert?

2 Ray Lopez February 24, 2016 at 7:28 pm

Of course I was thinking of Mundell, and should have wrote about the other famous Canadian I’ve also never read, “no relation to Alice”.

3 carlolspln February 25, 2016 at 12:38 am


Going native, Ray? 😉

4 John Hamilton February 24, 2016 at 6:14 pm

I know from various Serbian illegal immigrants that they pay ~30-40k for a fake green card marriage, so, at least for Serbian immigrants, that’s how much they value US citizenship. (If you’re wondering how they pay for it… They’re truck drivers.)

5 JB February 24, 2016 at 6:20 pm

That is at minimum how much they value it. I’d wager the surplus to them from that transaction is at least twice the outlay.

6 JL February 24, 2016 at 6:26 pm

If they pay 30-40k, then they probably place a higher value on citizenship, since there’s presumably some chance that the authorities will find out the fake green-card marriage is fake. Right?

7 Mondfledermaus February 25, 2016 at 11:26 am

Nope. The tricky part is getting the Green Card. Once you have that, you can get a divorce, and if you still want the citizenship, all you have to do is stay out trouble, and wait, learn the exam guide while your waiting.

8 Eric Crampton February 24, 2016 at 6:20 pm

Darned shame that citizenship isn’t a tradeable right. Some Americans abroad have to fight to get rid of the burden of citizenship; lots of foreigners wanting to be Americans have to fight to be let in.

9 prior_test1 February 25, 2016 at 12:16 am

Yep, I know one American citizen right now outside of the U.S. investigating the best way to lose one of the most exceptional benefits of American citizenship – the fact that the U.S. claims the right to tax all income earned everywhere by its citizens and by green card holders. Further, according to this woman, the American government also claims the right to tax the money inherited by the non-American children of an American citizen upon that citizen’s death, when both are living outside of the U.S., but that is merely repeating what she said. Sounds typical for the sort of benefits that Americn citizenship conveys, however.

10 FD February 25, 2016 at 11:25 am

The US doesn’t tax the recipients of inheritances, it taxes the estate before it is distributed.
Thus, who the recipients are is irrelevant.

11 mulp February 25, 2016 at 3:13 pm

And the estate and income are tied to the US. Quoting the first law firm google returned:

“Of course the good news for U.S. citizens and non-citizen residents is that the applicable exemption is now $5 million. However, for a nonresident non-citizen (“nonresident alien” or “NRA”) the applicable exemption continues to be limited to $60,000. Thus, estate tax is due when a nonresident alien’s estate transfers U.S. situs assets above $60,000. This article provides a brief overview of the U.S. estate and gift tax laws as they impact our international clients who are nonresident aliens.

Unlike U.S citizens and residents, who are subject to estate and gift tax on their worldwide assets, nonresident aliens are subject to estate and gift tax only on assets that are considered U.S. situs property. However, it should come as no surprise that the situs rules are complex and different for gift tax and estate tax purposes. Advisors need to review the possibility and impact of existing tax treaties between the U.S. and other countries.”

If US citizens find being a US citizen to be only a liability, then they must have nothing connected to the US that has any value, no property of any value. If they have US property of value, it’s because of the US. Unless being born in North Korea in a slave labor camp is equivalent to being born a US citizen, and by the same age, the US citizen would have the same wealth if born in North Korea because he created everything himself with no credit to the US.

You can not argue the homeless in the US are not really poor by comparing them to people in other nations, like Cuba or North Korea, and then at the same time argue the US contributed zero to the material wealth of an individual born, or simply residing, in the US.

12 JWatts February 24, 2016 at 6:26 pm

“[what is] the dollar value of U.S. citizenship, because of its financial, security, status and other benefits for an immigrant form China or India?”

Shouldn’t we use the value of life calculations that the Fed have extensively research, at least for an upper bound. And $100K is laughably low.


$50,000 per year of quality life

$9.1 million (Environmental Protection Agency, 2010)

$7.9 million (Food and Drug Administration, 2010)

$9.4 million (Transportation Department, 2015)

$9.1 million (Prof. W. Kip Viscusi, Vanderbilt University, 2013)

So, there’s your upper band for estimation.

13 JWatts February 24, 2016 at 6:31 pm

My guess is, that if you started offering citizenship at $100K a pop, you’d have a market in the millions. How much does a corporation spend on H1B visa paperwork and then salary on top? How many Indian/Chinese would agree to take an engineering job in the US for $20K less than the market rate for a 6 year period? How many would take a job as a truck driver for $20K less than the market rate?

14 Kris February 25, 2016 at 3:44 am

You are propagating the canard about H1Bs going to desperate Indians (among others) who are willing to work for peanuts in order to gain a foothold into the US, eventually leading to citizenship. While undoubtedly there must be some people who fit this profile, the overwhelming majority of these visas go to (1) those who just want “international work experience”, which looks good on their resume, and earnings in dollars, both of which help career-wise and living-wise when they return to their home countries, or (2) foreign students or foreigners with stellar reputations in their fields who would consider it beneath them to accept cheap labor wages; their skills and expertise would let them live like kings in their home countries, so they aren’t desperate enough to escape to the US.

15 Steve Sailer February 25, 2016 at 5:40 am

Sorry, but there’s hard data on how many people would like to immigrate.

The Gallup Poll reports based on surveying 452,000 people in 151 countries in 2009-2011:

“150 Million Adults Worldwide Would Migrate to the U.S.

“Potential migrants most likely to be Chinese, Nigerian, and Indian

“by Jon Clifton

“WASHINGTON, D.C. — About 13% of the world’s adults — or more than 640 million people — say they would like to leave their country permanently.”

Of course, 640 million adults wanting to emigrate does not included their dependent children and dependent elders. So, that’s more like a billion or so.

“Roughly 150 million of them say they would like to move to the U.S. — giving it the undisputed title as the world’s most desired destination for potential migrants since Gallup started tracking these patterns in 2007.”

We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

Keep in mind that America is the first choice of 150 million adults, but, presumably, an Open Borders policy in the U.S. unmatched by other Anglosphere countries would also lure in many of the 113 million whose first choices are UK, Canada, and Australia.

Of course, not all these people would show up, since life in America would get increasingly crummy the more the tens of millions of Third Worlders move in, so a balance would be reached where life in America isn’t better than back home in the Third World long before all potential immigrants arrive.


16 Kris February 25, 2016 at 9:04 am

Perhaps, but my point was more specific, about the motivations of H-1B visa seekers. As for potential migrants being most likely to be Chinese or Indian (not sure about Nigeria), well, duh! China Plus India make more than a third of the world’s population. Pick any global issue, and Indians and Chinese would be a big factor in that issue.

And H-1B is the opposite of Open Borders; it selects people who already have proven job market abilities. You and other people may believe they are incompetent and only get hired because they are cheap, but compare the numbers of visa-getters with the projections from your links above, and you’ll see that there is a ruthless selection process.

Lastly, expressed wishes are not a great indicator of immigration volumes. Most of these people (unless they live in war-torn countries) are not going to attempt to migrate to the US, leaving behind their families and the cultures they are familiar with, and many who do make the attempt will get disillusioned pretty soon about the US being a land of milk and honey, and eventually return. The US does not have open borders for anyone other than illegal immigrants from Mexico, and once President Donald builds the Wall, that will stop too.

17 mulp February 25, 2016 at 3:20 pm

US Law sets a price of $500,000 on a green card, with an annual quota, but Congress thinks it set the price too low. Whether the price will simply be hiked or deemed “priceless” is unclear to me.

This is one of the few sources of investment creating jobs because most US rich people think paying workers to build stuff is a very bad investment, so they simply buy stuff make by labor years ago to inflate the price way above the labor cost.

18 Cass1an February 25, 2016 at 3:04 am

Value of statistical life doesn’t work this way. It is measured by demand on micromorts (micromort is anti-good, so demand is to have as little as possible). It is not even stable from one source of micromorts to another. Only way to use it – we can estimate how much people don’t want to die in certain situation by their revealed preferences (paying to reduce risk) and then use it for compensations and evaluating costly safety measures.

It measures not so much US citizenship as quality adjusted life of US citizen. If you exclude that, you’ll get much lower result.

19 JWatts February 25, 2016 at 10:25 pm

“If you exclude that, you’ll get much lower result.”

Yes, that’s why I said those estimates form the upper band.

20 Anon February 25, 2016 at 3:32 am

Uhm no. Check what people actually pay for that in real world (the Serbian example above is good).

21 JWatts February 25, 2016 at 6:16 pm

“I know from various Serbian illegal immigrants that they pay ~30-40k for a fake green card marriage-”

If someone is willing to pay $30-40K for a risky fake green card, then they’ll pay considerably more for direct, legal citizenship.

22 So Much For Subtlety February 24, 2016 at 6:32 pm

The obvious solution is to set up a market. I would think that a legal passport would be in the range of millions of dollars if they were properly sold.

The only problem with the market solution is that it would disadvantage existing residents. So perhaps we could make it population neutral – you can buy only if someone is willing to sell. There are people trying to give up their US passports. Why not make it easy for them and make a profit for all concerned?

Sort of like the way the British used to sell officer positions in the Army.

23 Fred February 24, 2016 at 7:21 pm

How does it disadvantage existing residents?

24 required February 24, 2016 at 8:59 pm

Citizenship is a non-rivaled good so it does not need a seller other than the government.

25 Lord Action February 25, 2016 at 2:13 pm

It imposes significant obligations on other citizens, so granting a new citizenship ought to have the consent of the prior citizens. Selling citizenships so that the proceeds go to current citizens would be a lot more moral than the current policy of giving them away.

Arguably there are some people who would be so attractive to have as citizens that the price should work the other way, and we should pay to acquire them. But not most people.

26 prior_test1 February 25, 2016 at 12:49 am

‘I would think that a legal passport would be in the range of millions of dollars if they were properly sold.’

This is so, so wrong. From an official U.S. government web site providing information to those wishing to purchase residency (one assumes with an option for citizenship) – ‘Entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) who make an investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States and who plan to create or preserve ten permanent full time jobs for qualified United States workers, are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence).

Up to 10,000 visas may be authorized each fiscal year for eligible entrepreneurs.

You must invest $1,000,000, or at least $500,000 in a targeted employment area (high unemployment or rural area). In return, USCIS may grant conditional permanent residence to the individual.’ https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-through-job/green-card-through-investment

Admittedly, the visa number is capped at 10,000 – but if the information here – https://www.uscis.gov/visabulletin-feb-16 – is correct, anyone in the world with a million to invest can apply for a residency visa today (with the exception of a mainland Chinese applicant – there, the backlog seems to be around 2 years). In the bulletin, the category appears to be 5th for Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur.

As always, spending time looking at such things is fascinating. Especially contrasting the reality of how much American citizenship costs compared to what Americans think it is worth. Due to an essentially unique taxation aspect of American exceptionalism, very few people with a few million in the bank outside of the U.S. would ever want to subject their worldwide income to double taxation or American Treasury (think bank accounts) reporting requirements.

A fact also true for many American citizens at this point – but then, we don’t really talk about such unAmerican Americans often, do we?

27 mulp February 25, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Other than dictatorships involved in pillage and plunder of their natural resources (eg Saudi Arabia, Dubai) where is there no “double taxation”?

28 Brent Buckner February 26, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Almost everywhere else taxes on residency, not citizenship. For example, citizens of Canada residing in Sweden (and not residing in Canada) pay taxes in Sweden and not in Canada – contrast that with U.S. citizens residing in Sweden who pay taxes in Sweden and in the U.S. [This is NOT tax advice!]

29 David February 24, 2016 at 6:49 pm

EB-5 visas effectively sell U.S. citizenship for $500,000.


30 Dan Hill February 24, 2016 at 7:08 pm

@David, that overstates the price. At the end of the two years they can take their money back out, so it’s only anything close to 500K if invested very unwisely. Assuming the requirements of the program force the money toward investments that don’t provide a commercial rate of return, the cost could be as low as the opportunity cost of tying half a mill up for two years – at a notional 5% return, that’s only 50K.

31 David February 26, 2016 at 12:07 am

Thanks, didn’t realize that. Great point.

32 Jake February 24, 2016 at 7:12 pm

No they don’t. You generally get the $500,000 back after five years. So it’s use of $500,000 for five years, plus ~$15,000 in fees of various kinds. The money also has to be traceably clean.

Also, it isn’t entirely trivial to maintain the greencard or get citizenship afterwords. You need to want to live in the United States (which is a separate desire from wanting on US citizenship). On the other hand, it is for you and your immediate family.

33 prior_test1 February 25, 2016 at 12:53 am

And as noted above, it seems as if anyone with the cash can submit an application right now (except mainland Chinese, with a 2 year backlog) – https://www.uscis.gov/visabulletin-feb-16

The reality is that the U.S. is not all that attractive to anyone with the couple of million available to buy into the American Dream of universal American taxation of worldwide income, and mandatory reporting of all non-American bank accounts.

34 mulp February 25, 2016 at 3:43 pm

So, where should Elon Musk have moved to from South Africa?
Sergey Brin from Russia?
George Sonos from Hungary?
Rupert Murdock from Australia?
Peter Thiel From Germany?

In short, why are the people on this list so stupid as to become US citizens when they could have become richer billionaires in some tax haven and not paid a dime in US taxes because US citizenship has only cost burdens and no value?

35 Floccina February 28, 2016 at 5:45 pm

They could pay over time.

36 Gordon Mohr February 24, 2016 at 6:53 pm

As an aid to policy discussion, this doesn’t have to be a matter of guesswork and debated estimation methodologies. Just authorize INS to run rolling auctions, for some token number of citizenships (and green cards), each year. Maybe a few hundred, maybe a few thousand.

Of course, claimants would have to meet all other traditional standards of probity/etc. That is, this isn’t a method for waiving minimal standards, just for allocating limited slots.

I say winning ‘claimant’ rather than ‘bidder’ to allow for bidders who might not themselves be eligible or interested, but would want to gift a purchased ‘golden ticket’ to someone else who was eligible. This would allow both commercial and community/crowdfunded purchases for specific named pre-qualified individuals.

An accurate valuation number, and details about how it changes over time and with other qualities of the bidder/recipient, could be ‘priceless’ information for further political debates.

37 Jake February 24, 2016 at 7:13 pm

Certainly seems like a better use of 50,000 quota numbers than the nonsensical DV lottery.

38 Brian Donohue February 24, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Sounds like a lot. Perhaps those born in this country might profit from reflecting on how much others are willing to pay in cold, hard cash for what they have been bequeathed gratis.

39 Thiago Ribeiro February 24, 2016 at 7:17 pm

They have been bequeathed nothing, they ARE the USA. People are not willing to pay to become Americans because they want to be near the Grand Canyon or the Stone Mountain.

40 JB February 24, 2016 at 10:33 pm

The point still holds. The value of the USA can still degrade, and its people were born into their quality.

41 prior_test1 February 25, 2016 at 1:07 am

‘The value of the USA can still degrade’

It already has. At this point, an American living in Germany has basically no chance to open anything but an extremely basic savings (not precisely – but Girokonto and using Überweisungen would require explanations) account, and only after providing the German bank with the American Social Security or TIN number. This is due to the reality that the U.S. demands foreign financial institutions follow American laws/reporting requirements when dealing with American citizens/residents. Which may be why the TIN is more familiar in Germany than the Social Security number when opening a new account that the U.S. might be interested in – there are a lot more German holders of American green cards with German bank and investment accounts than there are American citizens living in Germany.

Such financial institutions, not being stupid, simply cancel all dealings with American citizens so as to avoid dealing with all the varied quirks and contradictions of an ever changing tax code/boycott regimes/reporting requirements and filing dates, etc.

Though for truly patriotic Americans, such degradation in monetary terms is nothing compared to the feeling of patriotic satisfaction, right?

(After checking for fun, I now see it is actually called an ITIN for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number – https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Taxpayer-Identification-Numbers-TIN This means that where a distinction was made by a TIN and SSN, these days the TIN is the comprehensive term.)

42 Axa February 25, 2016 at 5:41 am

Just a question, if you’ve already learned to speak German, why stay on backwater Germany? Switzerland is nicer and banks are not stupid to cancel all dealings with American citizens.

43 chuck martel February 25, 2016 at 11:02 am

The US spent a lot of money and donated the lives of a lot of men to end the imperial dreams of the Germans and their Japanese buddies. Seventy-one years later both countries are occupied by the victorious US in effect, if not in fact. Ergo, the US gets to make the rules on how German banks operate and where certain developments take place in Japan, among other things. There is no reciprocity. The Krauts can’t tell the Americans how fine to grind their bratwurst. That’s what happens when a nation/state gets taken over by a psychopath. People pay for generations.

44 8 February 24, 2016 at 7:14 pm

The obvious floor is welfare benefits. If you come to the U.S. with 2 kids, you immediately receive $30,000 in education spending plus potentially $50-$75k in welfare benefits. If you are able to bring elderly parents over, you are looking at a cool $100k in welfare benefits for a three generation family. What is the NPV value of a 50-year annuity paying $100,000 a year at 3% interest? $2.6 million.

45 9 February 24, 2016 at 7:28 pm

Really? What programs are these that pay this kind of benefits?

46 required February 24, 2016 at 9:01 pm

DC spends $30k per child for k-12.
LA spends $25k per child for k-12.
Lots of welfare benefits with lots of kids in those areas.

47 JB February 24, 2016 at 10:34 pm

You get $30k spent on you. That is very different from getting $30k worth of benefits.

The existence of private schools with tuition lower than that figure suggests an actual value to the recipients that is lower as well.

48 willy dolla$ign February 25, 2016 at 1:04 am

Or, even more accurately, you get 100k+ spent on you if you have some type of special circumstance (disability etc.), and considerably less than 30k if not.

49 prior_test1 February 25, 2016 at 1:13 am

‘The obvious floor is welfare benefits. If you come to the U.S. with 2 kids, you immediately receive $30,000 in education spending plus potentially $50-$75k in welfare benefits.’

This is so, so wrong. If you come to the U.S. with 2 kids, you will need to sign a document saying that you will not receive any welfare benefits, and to the extent that you do receive money from the U.S., your sponsor is responsible to pay back the money.

And for fun? This applies to getting a Consular Report of Birth Abroad – that’s right, an American citizen living overseas, with a child declared to be an American citizen by the U.S. government will also sign such a document (at least back in the mid-1990s).

I can see that as always, the MR comment section remains unique in just how well informed it is.

50 Ricardo February 25, 2016 at 2:01 am

“This applies to getting a Consular Report of Birth Abroad”

This makes sense in the case of a child born out of wedlock (allegedly) to an American father. I believe one of the conditions for citizenship to pass from an unmarried father to a child is that the father takes financial responsibility for the child which would imply no welfare. But in other cases, it would be very surprising since most countries do not have birth right citizenship. If a married American expat couple have a child at least anywhere in Asia or Africa, that child has no claim on citizenship in his or her country of birth and only has a claim on American citizenship.

51 whatsthat February 24, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Most people who move to the US for a sustained period of time do so for cultural, not economic, reasons.

52 8 February 24, 2016 at 7:16 pm

The vast majority of immigrants who come to America do so purely for economic reasons, as they have done for centuries.

53 Mondfledermaus February 25, 2016 at 11:33 am

There may be some. Ask most immigrants and they will tell you they are more than willing to go back to their home countries if they could find employment at equivalent levels.

54 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Here’s a translation of a Chinese ad for birth tourism that enumerates all the benefits:


55 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 7:26 pm

One of the overlooked benefits that the birth tourism business touts is eligibility for financial aid from American colleges. People who aren’t U.S. citizens typically have to pay the full sticker price while middle class American citizens often get $40k to $160k discounts.

The college financial aid system was set up back when the idea of Americans helping out their fellow American citizens seemed natural.

56 John February 24, 2016 at 11:57 pm

The colleges aren’t helping anyone out. It’s classic price discrimination. If they tried to charge “full price” they wouldn’t have any middle class American citizen students.

57 Kris February 25, 2016 at 4:01 am

Can’t commend on colleges but American grad schools (at least, the legit ones) try to attract the best students from all over the world by promising them full financial aid (either a fellowship, a research assistant position, or a teaching assistant position.) Nationalism doesn’t figure in the calculus; it’s all about raising the research profiles of these universities, who would either not come close to filling their graduate classes (at least in STEM fields) or have to relax their standards, if they stuck to American citizens.

58 Fazal Majid February 24, 2016 at 7:22 pm

In the absence of a market, the question is meaningless. For the professionals who are trying to immigrate into the country, certainly in the tens to hundreds thousand dollars. For many expatriate Americans who are renouncing their citizenship due to FATCA, the value is negative.

59 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 7:27 pm

But, of course, there are markets.

For example, it’s pretty easy to calculate the value of a U.S. Green Card from the dowry demands in Hindu arranged marriage ads. U.S. citizenship is worth even more on the Indian dowry market.

60 Dzhaughn February 24, 2016 at 8:34 pm

Yes, there are, but the dollar value is entirely relative to those markets.

61 Kris February 25, 2016 at 4:11 am

I hope you know that dowry demands have been illegal in India for a few decades now; we were inundated with the evils of the dowry system through TV soaps, Bollywood movies and public service ads until the 80s and early 90s. So it’s very unlikely you would have seen demands, especially in monetary terms, from newspaper ads. I guess you are extrapolating from some other unmentioned data source? Either that, or you are just projecting from your assumptions.

It’s true that, for a significant period, from the 1965 immigration act to the 90s, when India and its economy opened up to the outside world after a half-century of socialism, that US citizens were top of the hierarchy in the arranged marriage market, but that’s not been the case in the past two decades. The job market for the kinds of Indians who immigrate to the US (tech people) is pretty strong in their home country, and to the extent that old parents have influence over their children’s marriage partner choices, they would prefer someone who didn’t live halfway around the world and wouldn’t be able to tend to them in their dotage,

62 Vendar February 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm

For the very wealthy, US citizenship is unbelievably expensive. Much better to bounce around the world’s farfait, reznondim regimes. You can still visit the US often, but for heaven’s sake, do not take up citizenship.

63 Jack February 24, 2016 at 7:58 pm

Exactly. I’m actually more interested in what an EU citizenship would be worth to a US citizen, particular an expat.

US penalties against those who drop citizenship may make the actual decision difficult, but it would be worthwhile to know the numbers.

64 prior_test1 February 25, 2016 at 1:16 am

‘I’m actually more interested in what an EU citizenship would be worth to a US citizen, particular an expat.’

Hard to quantify, as it much easier to explain the negative financial aspects of American citizenship than set a value.

65 mulp February 25, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Property rights sure seem to be an onerous financial burden to conservatives.

Look at all the cases where conservative blame onerous government regulations prohibiting building housing on property owned by other people, a top complaint about the inability to build cheap housing to be sold for millions in NYC and parts of California.

Why these people who see the US as such a burden demand they get to take their property tax free out of the US when the consider property ownership to be an onerous burden is baffling. Simply walk away without the burdensome US property.

66 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 7:35 pm

Using Google Translate, here’s the first of about 8 benefits promised by a 2011 Chinese Birth Tourism ad:

“1. Your children born in the United States immediately with American identity, the enjoyment of civil rights; 21 years of age, parents can apply for dependents of permanent green card, without waiting for the quota, provide conditions for future immigrants.”

Notice that the most relevant civil right that the Chinese baby will enjoy in the United States is the right to “provide conditions for future immigrants.” In other words, from a mainland Chinese perspective, civil right Number One is the right to chain migration. This “civil right” doesn’t just help the anchor babies` children, but also their parents and siblings.

I used to live in Chicago a block from a 20-story public housing project for old folks. It was full of elderly East Asians who didn’t speak English. Apparently, their immigrant children had brought them over via chain migration, and then plunked them into public housing on the American taxpayer`s dime.

67 BC February 24, 2016 at 8:31 pm

If we had open borders, then the market would naturally direct housing slots to immigrants that were coming here to work. Their income would allow them to outbid non-working immigrant relatives. Thanks to those that oppose open borders and those that worry about immigrants “taking jobs away” from natives, our immigrant population is instead more heavily weighted to “chain” non-working immigrants.

68 Jason Bayz February 25, 2016 at 12:51 pm

If we had open borders, public housing would disappear! On an unrelated note, would you be interested in purchasing a bridge?

69 Brian Donohue February 25, 2016 at 11:03 am

OK, today is Steve’s anti-China jag. Here’s the Chicago Housing Authority’s most recent quarterly report:


On page 21, we see Steve’s point. Asians make up 13% of the public housing for seniors in Chicago. So yes, there is likely a kernel of truth to your notion here.

How about non-senior housing? 15 Asian families, total. 0.02% of the total.

How about just a smidgen of perspective on this whole ‘taxpayer’s dime’ theme here, Steve?

70 Steve Sailer February 25, 2016 at 10:46 pm

Thanks for quantifying my point. There are virtually zero Asians in normal public housing in Chicago, but suddenly there are 13% in the senior housing, virtually none of whom paid taxes during their working lives because they were in Asia.

Professor Matloff of UC Davis has a lot more on this scam:

Welfare Use Among Elderly Immigrants

Testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Immigration


71 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Here’s more from the Chinese Birth Tourism ad:

“2. You are to the environment, education, the United States is the world`s most powerful countries, children are entitled to attend the next U.S. public elementary school to high school, completely free tuition”

I must admit, Google`s translation was a little vague there for a while. But the end should be clear enough: “completely free tuition.”

In China, the government runs the schools, but the parents must pay tuition. In America, however, the American taxpayers pay. This distinction inspires all sorts of attempts to rig the American system—such as Chinese families sending their birth tourism children to live with relatives, or even alone, in the San Gabriel Valley.

How much is thirteen years of free schooling worth, in the better sort of San Gabriel Valley public school districts? The minimum estimate of annual expenditures per student runs from $8,000 to over $10,000. Multiplied by 13 years, that`s $104,000-$135,000 in American taxpayer dollars. But that badly underestimates total taxpayer expenditures because it leaves much out, especially capital investments.

And Southern California is a hugely expensive place to build schools. Last year, for example, Los Angeles opened a $578,000,000 (!!) public school.

As a parent in the adjoining San Fernando Valley, I’ve been involved in many discussions of exactly what is the market value of being able to send a child to an exclusive San Gabriel public school versus a private school. I would guesstimate the going rate of 13 years of top suburban public education would now begin approaching a total of $200,000.

72 BC February 24, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Are public schools an investment in human capital or just an expense, i.e., when taxpayers pay for children to attend public schools, do we expect to receive a positive return from that child’s education or do we expect to end up losing money because K-12 education is just not that valuable? If the former, then we should also realize a positive return when investing in the education of immigrant children (unless we are foolish enough to force those immigrants out of the country once they complete their education like we do many foreign college and graduate students). If the latter, then why pay even for native children’s education, if education is a money losing investment?

73 MC February 24, 2016 at 9:50 pm

If K-12 education is viewed as an investment, then, like any other investment, one has to decide how much money to invest because there are opportunity costs of devoting money to educating immigrant children rather than investing in other things with equal or higher rates of return. Furthermore, if immigrant children perform worse in school on average than native children, then that lowers the rate of return and increases the opportunity costs.

74 HL February 25, 2016 at 9:57 am

“If the latter, then why pay even for native children’s education, if education is a money losing investment?”

This is a legitimate question that is rarely asked. At some point education *is* a money losing investment. I suspect we are much closer to it being inefficient than is commonly realized.

75 chuck martel February 25, 2016 at 11:14 am

California might be different but in some states public schools receive state funding based on attendance each day. The schools want their students to show up every day so they get their piece of the scholastic financial pie. In that respect, they don’t care if the kid is from Mars as long as there’s a check by his name on the attendance register.

76 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 7:40 pm

“3. Your children`s future public universities, research institutes tuition as long as 10% of foreign students, easy access to well-known universities”

In other words, the University of California.

How much is this worth?

Public UCLA doesn’t like to use the word “tuition”. But UCLA’s in-state “registration fees” for 2011-2012 will be $11,602. That`s not per semester—that`s for the entire year. In contrast, private USC’s tuition and mandatory fees will be $42,818. Over four years, the difference between USC’s and UCLA’s tuition adds up to about $125,000.

77 Ricardo February 24, 2016 at 11:11 pm

You first need to be a California resident to qualify for in-state tuition. For most incoming freshmen, that means that your parents have to be paying California income taxes, have a permanent address in the state, and the student needs to have graduated from a California high school. Giving birth to an “anchor baby” in the U.S. in no way entitles the parents to live and work in the U.S. Whether the minor child is a U.S. citizen or not, the parents have to jump through the same hoops to live and work in the United States.

78 prior_test1 February 25, 2016 at 1:17 am

Don’t confuse him with facts, it’s unfair.

79 Steve Sailer February 25, 2016 at 1:26 am

See below about Arcadia H.S.

80 prior_test1 February 25, 2016 at 1:49 am

See below about “Observations Concerning the Increase in Mankind.”

81 Ricardo February 25, 2016 at 3:30 am

Vague anecdotes are impossible to refute but, as a graduate of the UC system, I can confirm that they ask for quite a few documents to confirm that you are a bona fide California resident and have many grounds for refusing in-state tuition if they sense you are trying to game the system. Students under age 24 must either have parents who are full-time California residents or else they must show financial independence and additionally show that they have permanent ties to California and are not present in the state for merely educational purposes.

See here: https://students.ucsd.edu/finances/fees/residence/criteria.html

If you are claiming there are large numbers of teenagers living alone in California just so they can get in-state tuition, that is almost certainly not the full story as they would have to show proof of employment and demonstrate they are earning enough to support themselves financially and are not dependent on a non-resident parent.

82 Steve Sailer February 25, 2016 at 4:33 am
83 Ricardo February 25, 2016 at 5:28 am

And like I said, check out the actual requirements to qualify for in-state tuition at California’s public universities as stated by UCSD. It is not simply a matter of plopping yourself down in the state for a year. You need documentation of financial independence or parental ties to the state. The article doesn’t say anything about in-state tuition being a motivating factor and, indeed, notes that these are not U.S. citizens who wouldn’t normally be entitled to in-state tuition anyway. There is a substantial prestige factor of being educated abroad and in an English-speaking environment. My impression is that it is for rich kids who aren’t quite competitive enough to get into an elite international school in their own country or an elite English boarding school.

84 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 8:03 pm

Here’s a question for economists: Why isn’t Tyler’s question — “What is the dollar value of U.S. citizenship?” — a subject of active study and debate among economists? Why aren’t there new papers being published on the subject regularly, with debates organized among leading scholars, and academics becoming minor celebrities for discovering new natural experiments for answering the question better?

85 Nathan W February 24, 2016 at 8:55 pm

Guess: Because to do such a study would be to suggest that someone’s actually thinking of auctioning off citizenships, which a great diversity of different groups would be broadly up in arms about for all manner of reasons.

86 Trump Kills Last Mosquito, Places Tiny Make America Great Hat On ZikaHead Baby February 24, 2016 at 10:42 pm

tyler and his fellow academicians are busy getting paid to degrade the value of american citizenship. Academia works for Big Business, just as the gov’t, hollywood and the media work for Big Business.

And Big Business wants cheap labor. And Tyler and his fellow academics help Big Business generate propaganda to make sure that we americans cannot use our position as citizens to extract higher wages from Capital.

87 cowboydroid February 25, 2016 at 1:08 am

(sigh) It wouldn’t be an economics blog without the token Marxist.

88 Trump Kills Last Mosquito, Places Tiny Make America Great Hat On ZikaHead Baby February 25, 2016 at 7:04 am

but but but…I am against mass immigration (which academia sacralizes via propaganda). So if I am against mass immigration, I cannot be marxist.
But I used the word “Capital” in the context of Labor vs Capital, so therefore I must be marxist.

but…I am against mass immigration (which academia sacralizes via propaganda).

But I used the word “Capital” in the context of Labor vs Capital, so therefore I must be marxist.

Does not compute Does not compute Does not compute Does not compute …….
**smoke emanates from cowboydroid’s logic circuits**

89 Jimbino February 24, 2016 at 8:06 pm

I wish there were a market in USSA citizenships, ’cause I’d sure as hell offer mine for sale or trade–more so if Trump and Hillary are the two left standing. Many Jews, like Lise Meitner, waited till almost too late to get out, and I wouldn’t want to run the same gantlet.

90 JB February 24, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Where exactly would you go that is better for Jews than here?

And what about Hillary (or Trump, for that matter, with his New York values) suggests that she would be particularly bad for the Jews?

91 Hydrogel February 24, 2016 at 8:18 pm

Depends on who you ask. Plenty of people are willing to pay $2,350 to escape through the US financial iron curtain. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2015/10/23/u-s-has-worlds-highest-fee-to-renounce-citizenship/#4100346b6568

92 Keith February 24, 2016 at 8:30 pm

Does this include the person’s share of $19 trillion of debt?

93 cowboydroid February 25, 2016 at 1:10 am

The citizen is not liable for that debt. It’s the government’s.

94 JWatts February 25, 2016 at 6:20 pm

Luckily there’s no mechanism that the government can use to transfer those payment demands to its denizens.

95 cowboydroid February 25, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Of course, the government is able to raise revenue by simply taking the money of its citizens to pay down its creditors, but the point is that there is no court which would rule the debt liability belongs to the citizen.

96 StataTheLeft February 24, 2016 at 8:44 pm

There’s a bit of an attempt to put a lower bound on this in the conservative case for immigration tariffs.


97 Steve Adams February 24, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Of course the value will depend on the person. The value to a Canadian might be pretty small as they may end up in fiscally worse shape. The value to a billionaire Russian that can get much of his money out of Russia just before being imprisoned by Putin would be pretty high.

98 cowboydroid February 25, 2016 at 1:12 am

So you’re saying that value is *subjective*.

And absent a market in the good, it is impossible to determine a price. The value expressed in monetary terms will vary wildly depending on the consumer.

99 Steve Sailer February 25, 2016 at 1:52 am

So that explains why economists don’t study this seemingly obvious question …

100 cowboydroid February 25, 2016 at 5:33 pm

The only point on this subject worth studying from an economics point of view is how just undeveloped the market is for this “good.”

The value to each individual varies too much to generate a market price, and there almost no free exchange permitted. The supply is unpredictable and artificially constrained, and the demand fluctuates for a million different reasons.

101 BC February 24, 2016 at 9:10 pm

The “value of US citizenship”, which mainly confers voting rights, is not necessarily that large. I think Tyler is really asking a different question: How much *cost* do we impose on foreigners when we infringe on their liberty of contract — for example, to accept employment and rent or buy housing — and their freedom of movement. Of course, that cost is considerable and estimated in the aggregate over all people to equal per year roughly the entire world’s GDP. It’s more accurate to label this as a cost imposed by infringement because freedom of movement and contract is conferred at birth by Nature; it’s free and not created by our active action. The blocking of immigration, and the infringement of those freedoms, is the non-passive, active action.

102 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 9:37 pm

And here’s the four benefit enumerated in the Chinese Birth Tourism ad:

“4. You can apply for the future of American children U.S. citizens can enjoy the scholarships, student loans low interest rate of 1%”

In other words, financial aid for college. This is a biggie. You can get financial aid (both tuition discounts and taxpayer-subsidized federal loans) for American colleges, private and public, much more readily as a birth fraud citizen than as an honest foreigner.

This is not well understood within the United States. But it is increasingly well known among the billions abroad.

Most American colleges’ financial aid applications ask if the applicant is an American citizen. The applications make clear that less aid is available for foreigners without green cards.

For example, Stanford is one of the wealthiest colleges in the world. But it still expects most of its international students to pay its full list price tuition of $40,050 per year [as of 2011]. Stanford’s web page for international admissions cautions:

“However, because of the limited financial aid resources available to international students, Stanford can offer admission with financial aid to a small number of international applicants a year. Thus, a student’s request for financial aid may be a factor in the admission decision.”

There are multiple reasons why the financial aid system is biased against foreigners.

First: when the tradition of financial aid was begun generations ago, the idea of American universities discriminating in favor of Americans out of patriotic solidarity was considered a good, natural thing.

The concept that when it comes to college tuition, rich Americans should help out not-rich Americans (e.g., me) more than non-Americans was once fairly noncontroversial.

Of course, the underlying notion of citizenism is now so out of fashion that it’s almost never even articulated anymore. Yet it seemed obvious to Americans when the current college system emerged in the middle of the 20th Century. And traces of it remain.

Second: colleges` financial aid systems are intimately tied in to federally-organized student loans. These loans are typically restricted to citizens and eligible resident aliens (e.g., green card holders).

To begin the process of applying for financial aid, you must fill in the feds` FAFSA. …

The figures you enter on your FAFSA can now be matched against the figures you enter on your IRS 1040. So don’t mess around.

Obviously, anybody can lie and claim to be a U.S. citizen on the financial aid applications.

But that brings us to the third reason colleges discriminate in favor of residents of the U.S.: …

Americans are reluctant to lie to the federal government on the FAFSA about how much income they reported to the IRS—because they are both part of the federal government. (And they now share data.) If you live here, and you lie to the feds in order to get more financial aid, well, they can send men with guns to take you away.

On the other hand, if you live in, say, Shanghai, how’s anybody in America supposed to figure out how much you really make and how much you have socked away?

Is the Chinese government going to help the American government keep Chinese nationals from fleecing American colleges?

So the better sort of American colleges don’t want to deal with residents of China—except on a cash-on-the-barrelhead basis. Because American colleges don’t trust the Chinese to tell them the truth about their most intimate financial secrets, it’s hard to get financial aid if you haven’t been living in America.

Of course, that doesn’t stop Chinese parents from gaming the system. For decades, my aunt, who has lived in Arcadia in the San Gabriel Valley for over a half century, has been pointing out to me the very odd-sounding phenomenon of rich Hong Kong or mainland Chinese teenagers living alone near her.

Why do they do this? By attending well-regarded Arcadia H.S. for a year or two, they establish eligibility for the University of California and for financial aid.

103 Ricardo February 25, 2016 at 9:58 am

You are trying to create a mystery where none exists. By law, the only people eligible for student aid through FAFSA are citizens, green card holders, conditional permanent residents holding an I-551C, and a handful of people in other miscellaneous categories such as refugees, people in the process of seeking refugee status (you need to be physically present in the U.S. with a valid I-94), as well as citizens of quasi-U.S. colonies like Palau, Marshall Islands, and Micronesia. Additionally, everyone except for the odd case of citizens of the aforementioned quasi-U.S. colonies needs a valid Social Security Number to apply.

You can actually look this stuff up. It is not some obscure set of knowledge hidden from the masses and there is no movement to open up federally subsidized student aid to people who don’t have legal ties to the U.S., whether they are citizens of China or Sweden.

104 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 9:47 pm

On the other hand, if you are a complete idiot like Farook family friend Enrique Marquez, you take $200 per month to enter into a sham marriage with your terrorist buddy’s brother’s wife’s sister, who is a hot Russian blonde:


105 Steve Sailer February 24, 2016 at 10:02 pm

The fifth benefit from the Chinese Birth Tourism ad:

“5. Your child unconditionally leave the future of the United States in high-income jobs (average wage of 37,363 U.S. dollars per person per year), be given priority as the U.S. government, government agencies and large enterprises important leading positions”

Americans are indoctrinated to think that the reason we are, on average and by global standards, comfortable, is because of our “propositions” or “diversity” or “immigration” or whatever. But the main reason, of course, is that there weren’t enough American Indians to stop us from taking America away from them.

The Chinese get it. Do we?

Benjamin Franklin pointed out in the 1750s that Americans lived better than Europeans because there were fewer of them relative to the continent`s available resources. The Preamble to the Constitution makes clear that the main purpose of the federal government`s existence: to “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” (How come the 55-word Preamble is seldom listed as one of the propositions?

Yet the reigning dogmas promulgated today is the more, the merrier! We Americans should be proud and happy that tens of millions of foreigners are conniving their way in. The more immigrants that jostle us, the more awesome we know we must be.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

The latter part of ChineseBabyCare.com`s selling proposition refers to the hiring preferences given American citizens for many government and big corporate jobs, such as, say, defense contractors.

Of course, those preferences are based on obsolete nativist paranoia! From Klaus Fuchs on down, when has a foreign-raised defense worker ever caused a security breach?

106 Roy LC February 25, 2016 at 12:56 am

John Walker, Robert Hanson, and Aldrich Ames, went long undetected because it was assumed they were one of us. Ames even got to run his own mole hunt and Hanson was an FBI agent.

In the Dreyfus affair the real spy was Esterhazy, don’t be fooled by the name he was Parisian and his family had been in French military service for centuries, Dreyfus was an Alsatian Jew and thus automatically suspect.

There is a serious downside to native born spies and secret police, and assuming their loyalty is possibly the least of it. Natives have natural insider connections and may attempt to use their authority and prerequisites to further factional fighting, this can lead to politicization of the security apparatus.

Because of this many regimes have historically depended on foreigners and or despised native groups who are unable to form alliances with political factions. This has an ancient history: Athens had a Scythian police force, the later empire didn’t just rely on German troops to protect the Emperors from Latin ones which could raise their generals to the purple but also preferentially employed barbarians in the most trusted positions. Eunuchs are another example, though in late Ming China they were able to subvert the civil ministries enough to allow them to appoint their relatives. The Ottoman State and many of its rivals effectively made their entire state foreign to reduce their chances of taking power.

Clearly as we descend into despotism we should favor foreign personnel and keep them constantly at war with each other while also maintaining a special force to watch them, because after all they are foreigners. Of course this would be a very dangerous place to let complacency set in…

107 Neil Munro February 25, 2016 at 12:47 am

I’m just amazed that Americans don’t even try to count the value of their greatest asset.

American citizenship and the entwined culture, opportunities and legal protections is the jackpot of our birth-lottery, and is one that many non-American people risk their lives to touch.

What economic factors would help explain why economists are loath to recognize and count every Americans’ most valuable asset?

This situation is as bizarre as if company accountants routinely ignored the value of company patents and real-estate.


108 Steve Sailer February 25, 2016 at 1:11 am

It was only a decade ago that I found out that perhaps the biggest advance in social science theory ever made by an American was Ben Franklin’s 1754 pamphlet “Observations Concerning the Increase in Mankind,” which directly inspired the biggest ideas of both Malthus and Darwin generations later. But Franklin’s breakthrough was part of his argument for restricting immigration, so it’s been largely tossed down the memory hole.

109 prior_test1 February 25, 2016 at 1:47 am

Please, Franklin was talking about importing slaves in that context, and how slavery was degrading to a nation’s future. Something, admittedly, many Americans would love to forget about, but which is plain in the pamphlet text.

Though it also true he did express concern about non-whites coming to America’s shores. However, I’m curious how a modern self-professed expert on race such as yourself looks at Franklin’s apparently more primitive definition of who is and isn’t white, and who should be allowed to immigrate or not – ‘Which leads me to add one remark: That the number of purely white people in the world is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes are generally of what we call a swarthy complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English make the principal body of white people on the face of the earth.’ That’s right, for Franklin, the number of truly white people in Europe was also quite small, and he did not want any of those apparently swarthy and thus inferior Swedes coming to the land that became the U.S.

The text is available here – http://www.archive.org/stream/increasemankind00franrich/increasemankind00franrich_djvu.txt

Saying things like this – ‘Tis an ill-grounded opinion that by the labour of slaves, America may possibly vie in cheapness of manufactures with Britain. The labour of slaves can never be so cheap here as the labour of working men is in Britain. Any one may compute it. Interest of money is in the Colonies from six to ten per Cent. Slaves one with another cost thirty . Sterling per head. Reckon then the interest of the first purchase of a slave, the Insurance or risque on his life, his cloathing and diet, expenses in his sickness and loss of time, loss by his neglect of business. (Neglect is natural to the man who is not to be benefited by his own care or diligence), Expence of a Driver to keep him at work, and his pilfering from time to time, almost every slave being by Nature a thief, and compare the whole amount with the wages of a manufacturer of iron or wool
in England, you will see that labour is much cheaper there than it ever can be by negroes here. Why then will Americans purchase slaves? Because slaves may be kept as long as a man pleases, or has occasion for their labour; while hired men are continually leaving their master (often in the midst of his business,) and setting up for themselves.’

Or this – ‘6. The Introduction of slaves. The negroes brought into the English Sugar Islands have greatly diminished the whites there; the poor are by this means depriv d of employment, while a few families acquire vast Estates, which they spend on foreign luxuries, and educating their children in the habit of those luxuries, the same Income is needed for the support of one that might have maintain d one hundred. The Whites who have slaves, not labouring, are enfeebled, and therefore not so generally prolific; the slaves being work d too hard, and ill fed, their onstitutions are broken, and the deaths among them are more than the births; so that a continual supply is needed from Africa. The Northern Colonies having few slaves increase in Whites. Slaves also pejorate* the Families that use them; the white children become proud, disgusted with labour, and being educated in idleness, are rendered unfit to get a Living by industry.’

Almost as if racists are so desperate for even a shred of text that they claim supports their views that they hope no one reads the actual work in question. And you only discovered this a decade ago? I guess the human biodiversity community isn’t all that big on colonial history, particularly when it comes to Founding Fathers decrying slavery. It isn’t as if Franklin’s views weren’t known at the time – the seeds of the Civil War go way back, after all, with many historically prominent Virginians playing major roles.

110 Steve Sailer February 25, 2016 at 3:24 am

Fiat Citizenship
by Steve Sailer
August 07, 2013

In the immigration debate, the conventional wisdom is that the solution to millions of “undocumented workers” is for the government to print up documents for them.

That always reminds me of a pivotal scene in Evelyn Waugh’s prophetic 1932 novel Black Mischief. …

The Emperor Seth’s downfall begins when he learns that for a modest fee he can have printed in Europe millions of pounds of paper money with his picture on them. The monarch explains to his aghast Minister of Modernization, Basil Seal:

“You see there were a great many things which needed doing and I had not a great many rupees.”

Seal attempts to outline to Seth the principles of monetarist economics (such as that, all else being equal, increasing the supply of money decreases its value), only to give it up as hopeless. “I knew you would understand,” says the Emperor. “It is so simple. As soon as these are used up we will send for some more.”

This ignorance of the law of supply and demand may seem derisible today, but the topic is esoteric enough that we should have some sympathy for the many politicians in the decades after World War II who cranked out too much fiat money. …

Unfortunately, while people can learn from painful experiences, we’re not very good at drawing analogies. It ought to be readily apparent that Marco Rubio’s push to print up documents for millions of undocumented illegal aliens and tens of millions of new immigrants is similar to the discredited Juan Peron/Salvador Allende school of economic management.

Evidently, though, it’s not.

Today, we comprehend that if, like the Weimar Republic in 1923, the government undermines the scarcity value of money, people could end up having to take a wheelbarrow full of cash to buy groceries. But the majority of the Senate that voted for the Schumer-Rubio bill to put tens of millions of foreigners on “a pathway to citizenship” by converting their counterfeit documents into new official papers showed little understanding of the scarcity value of citizenship and right of residence.

This willful ignorance isn’t surprising because politicians love giving big handouts to small numbers of people by nicking a small amount from big numbers of people. For instance, farm subsidies take billions from random taxpayers like you and me and give it to a small but well-funded lobby that has been enjoying record profits. Sure, it’s inane and corrupt, but is it worth your while to lobby Congress just to save a small amount in taxes?

Even more than they love taxing and spending, politicians adore a giveaway that doesn’t show up in the budget. Stumped by how to get minorities to earn more money, for instance, George W. Bush announced at his 2002 White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership his plan for letting minorities borrow more money: Reduce requirements for down payments and documentation on mortgages. What could go wrong?

Even better from the modern Senator’s standpoint is frittering away the scarcity value of your citizenship on various ethnic and business lobbies. In part, that’s easy to do because the notion that American citizenship has a cash value is not a concept that comes readily to the minds of idealistic Americans.

It sure does to foreigners, however. Randall Burns calculated in 2005 from Indian-arranged marriage ads that an H-1B visa adds $50,000-$70,000 to dowries. The gold standard of citizenship is worth even more. Similarly, Chinese birth tourism websites are extremely informative about all the advantages that accrue from glomming onto birthright citizenship.


111 dax February 25, 2016 at 4:51 am

As others have already pointed out in this thread, American citizenship is not tradable, so it’s value – positive or negative – depends on the person and his or her circumstances.

The American taxation system is based on citizenship and not on residence. There are also American laws about businesses which apply exclusively to Americans if they are e.g. partners, upper management, or traders in financial companies such as banks, so foreign companies which fall into this category may demur at hiring Americans. If you are planning to reside abroad the value of American citizenship is almost certainly negative – there are better safe havens, such as Canada or the UK.

American citizenship is very difficult to get rid of. Unless then a person is planning to reside in the US and stay there, it could still have a negative value.

The question poses specifically the question in terms of an immigrant from China and India. One assumes therefore the question assumes that the person involved does plan to reside in the US. In this case my guess is that American citizenship, like citizenship in any developed country, is then positive.

112 Horhe February 25, 2016 at 5:20 am

Wives are not tradable either (in certain cultures), yet markets in brides exist (in those same cultures). You could call it a form of consumption.

113 Axa February 25, 2016 at 5:37 am

Well, St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship is for sale at 250,000 USD. They offer 0% tax rate and no need to live in St. Kitts and Nevis. Is the US citizenship price higher or lower?

114 Steve Sailer February 25, 2016 at 5:46 am

It’s almost as if a lot of econ grad students in the U.S. aren’t actually patriotic Americans but instead are on the make foreigners.

115 Robert February 25, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Considering it will cost 30% of your wealth to ex-patriate, I’d say it has a negative value.


116 JWatts February 25, 2016 at 6:27 pm

That only applies if your net worth is greater than $2 million or your net income tax payments have been $150,000 for the last 5 years.

That’s a pretty small group.

117 Steve Sailer February 25, 2016 at 2:59 pm

It’s almost as if economists don’t want to answer Tyler’s question …

118 Anon anon sir February 27, 2016 at 6:06 am

Tyler –

The (dollar) value of everything could be a good running thread for you, and if it runs for long enough maybe you could sort of prove Wilde right after all.

What is the dollar value of being subject to racist or sexist or any discrimination? The sex discrimination part of that question is a matter of fierce debate on the pay gap – and I expect that shouldnt be too hard to multiply out by 40 years of life across different income levels. Is the literature on the racial discrimination pay gap as well quantified and are the battle lines as clearly drawn? Unfortunately there the top hits on google are articles like this, and they are plainly not that interested in estimating dollar values:


119 CaputDMO February 27, 2016 at 5:50 pm

And let’s have a look at the economic realization goodies involved in “Alien Spouse” (overwhelmingly female hetero NOW, but…you know..), and alleged domestic violence accusation laws.
Somehow I suspect the nice folks at (ie)Salon are not so “aware” of those.

120 vanderleun February 27, 2016 at 11:29 am

Oh yes, Salon, oh yes — there’s a authority on hallucinatory oppressions ……. well, if that spinning vomitory is where you feed it’s little wonder your mind is like a Roomba stuck in the corner choking on dust bunnies.

121 Floccina February 28, 2016 at 5:46 pm

I would think that a good engineer would pay about 40K per year.

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