High skilled migration and global innovation

Another argument against the brain drain hypothesis is that bringing talented workers to the “frontier” countries will boost the supply of global public goods.  Rui Xu, in her job market paper from Stanford (pdf), considers exactly this effect.  Here are her main results:

Science and engineering (S&E) workers are the fundamental inputs into scientific innovation and technology adoption. In the United States, more than 20% of the S&E workers are immigrants from developing countries. In this paper, I evaluate the impact of such brain drain from non-OECD (i.e., developing) countries using a multi-country endogenous growth model. The proposed framework introduces and quantifies a “frontier growth effect” of skilled migration: migrants from developing countries create more frontier knowledge in the U.S., and the non-rivalrous knowledge diffuses to all countries. In particular, each source country is able to adopt technology invented by migrants from other countries, a previously ignored externality of skilled migration. I quantify the model by matching both micro and macro moments, and then consider counterfactuals wherein U.S. immigration policy changes. My results suggest that a policy – which doubles the number of immigrants from every non-OECD country – would boost U.S. productivity growth by 0.1 percentage point per year, and improve average welfare in the U.S. by 3.3%. Such a policy can also benefit the source countries because of the “frontier growth effect”. Taking India as an example source country, I find that the same policy would lead to faster long-run growth and a 0.9% increase in average welfare in India. This welfare gain in India is largely the result of additional non-Indian migrants, indicating the significance of the previously overlooked externality.

In other words, the brain drain argument is overrated.  You might also wish to sample our MRUniversity video on the brain drain argument.

Comments

How skilled is Syed Farook's dad, an occasionally-employed truck driver and wife beater? Does Pakistan want him back, or are they content that America has got him?

You cannot predict this sort of thing SS SS. My favorite immigrant-that-didn't-fit-in-US-society story from maybe a decade ago was a Lebanese Christian woman from a white-collar professional suburban nuclear family who lived in San Diego if memory serves, and who decided with the rest of her family to collectively commit suicide. So they all dressed in black, including her two college age daughters, and the mom shot everybody before shooting herself. How do you explain that? Even her church congregation said the family appeared normal to them. One of the two daughters was even a psychology major. There's kooks all over the world, regardless of nationality. Just look in the mirror.

As Damon Runyon said:

"The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."

So who's the swiftest and strongest race(s)? I say Jamaicans and Iranians.

Paper: Skilled immigration improves welfare in both the sending and receiving country:

You: Individual X, father of horrible person, was not a skilled immigrant.

What's your point? How is this related to skilled immigration or the paper?

His point is that this argument would be valid only for a thin sliver of the immigration stream. Professional-managerial employees generally are only 14% of the workforce and the segment they're referring to - those actively involved in scientific or technical research - is a modest slice of that. Syed Farouk - a common and garden civil servant - is not the sort of person to whom this paper is referring; neither is his wife, who was a rank-and-file pharmacist.

Isn't someone like Syed Farook a vastly tinier sliver of the people who immigrate to the US? I live near a large community of Afghani and Pakistani immigrants, and it's not like we're having terrorist attacks here every day (or even every decade).

It seems like a waste of the limited resources the government has to try to prevent all immigration, even unskilled immigration from counties that some people find suspicious. There is obviously, some increase in risk of terrorist activity compared to the general American population. And we wouldn't want to necessarily let everyone in like some of the open borders people want. But the increase in risk we're talking about something like from 1 in 100,000,000 in the general American population to maybe 1 in 1,000,000 from potentially suspicious immigrant groups. Given the benefits that accrue both the general population and the immigrants themselves, is the cost associated with immigration restrictions really worth it?

In other words, some perspective here on the scope of the risk involved is missing. 18 people this year died from Islamic terrorist attacks in the US this year. Based on trends in previous years, something like 30,000 people have died in car accidents and 100,000+ people have died from heart disease. How come those 18 dead people inspire all sorts of immigration restrictions, but the 30,000 people who died in car accidents don't inspire people to ban automobiles, encourage public transportation, replace cars with bicycles, etc. etc.? Not that we should actually do those things, but at some point you have to make a cost benefit trade off here. If you want to live in a truly free country, then unfortunately you have to accept that terrorist attacks are going to occur occasionally.

It seems like a waste of the limited resources the government has to try to prevent all immigration, even unskilled immigration from counties that some people find suspicious.
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No, it's a 'waste of resources' because that's not a goal you care about. In any case, 'prevent all immigration' is not being actively discussed in public fora (even though there's a large minority which would like an immigration moratorium). Controlling net illegal immigration is the goal under discussion, and generating legal immigration streams with different properties is under discussion. That is achievable with assiduous institution building and public expenditures well within what federal agencies can achieve. Neither our political or academic elites interest themselves in that, because they're hostile to the interests of ordinary people.
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Isn’t someone like Syed Farook a vastly tinier sliver of the people who immigrate to the US?
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Mr. Sailer is jabbing the moderator, who was not above arguing for importing Syrian flash-mob migrants by telling us what a swell playmate Kathleen Fata of Fall River, Massachusetts was ca. 1968. Mr. Sailer is perfectly aware of something the moderator is attempting to conceal: we are not importing research scientists but ordinary joes; and there are some potential social problems which come from importing research scientists as well.

It still is important to consider the costs versus the benefits. Yes, there are potential social problems associated with immigration, skilled or unskilled. Particularly in the case of the United States, though, the benefits are far greater the associated costs. Especially since the US has a long track record of successfully integrating immigrants of many different backgrounds, including Muslim immigrants. The average American benefits from immigration as well in many different ways. To pick a particularly obvious example, what do you think the amount of available fresh produce as well as its associate price would be if it were not for unskilled immigrants (including illegal ones) in the US?

On that same matter, how practical is it for the government to try to determine the optimal number of immigrants that society needs and then limit that through quotas? Isn't this the same as the kind of Soviet central planning that completely fails in practice (and has failed if you look at the number of unauthorized immigrants in the US)? And have you ever tried dealing with the arcane bureaucracy that is the DHS? Your comments suggest you have not, because then you would have far less faith in the ability of the ability of the government to control legal immigration.

n the case of the United States, though, the benefits are far greater the associated costs.

Only in the imagination of Bryan Caplan. See the work of George Borjas on this point. And, again, there are the costs which escape economic calculation. Since Caplan despises social solidarity and civic spirit, he does not count the fragmentation resulting from mass immigration as a cost.

On that same matter, how practical is it for the government to try to determine the optimal number of immigrants that society needs and then limit that through quotas?

You're arguing for open borders, which is an absurd position to take.

Aaron W December 5, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Given the benefits that accrue both the general population and the immigrants themselves, is the cost associated with immigration restrictions really worth it?

What benefits? Even from an economic point of view, immigration provides roughly no benefits at all for the host community. When you add other costs it doesn't look like a good idea.

If you want to live in a truly free country, then unfortunately you have to accept that terrorist attacks are going to occur occasionally.

Why? The public will not accept terrorist attacks. They will want a solution. Which will either be the slow growth of the police state or a more permanent solution to the terrorist community. The only way to preserve freedoms is to end terrorism.

How many terrorist attacks do you think there were in Spain in 1493?

@Art Deco: I'm not arguing for open borders, only that the current system of quotas fundamentally doesn't work unless you're willing to spend a lot of money and implement an overly laborious amount of regulation, likely an unfeasibly high amount. There are alternatives that involve auctioning off permits rather than setting hard limits that could potentially address some of your concerns. For example, let's accept the premise that immigration harms less skilled "native" Americans. The money from permits could be used to offset some of the potential negative impacts of immigration (job retraining, etc.) in a way similar to how free trade is supported.

In terms of social solidarity and civic spirit, the same was said about Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and Italy, Jewish immigrants, and others. While there were indeed problems at the time, who now really cares if someone is Catholic or Jewish? Likewise, if someone can't see Muslim, Hispanic, or Asian immigrants as potential neighbors or fellow Americans, isn't that just a lack of experience? I certainly have no problems seeing them that way, but I live in a very ethnically diverse part of the United States.

@So Much For... "What benefits? Even from an economic point of view, immigration provides roughly no benefits at all for the host community. When you add other costs it doesn’t look like a good idea." If you think there are no benefits to the general population, how would you answer my earlier question: what do you think the amount of available fresh produce as well as its associated price would be if it were not for unskilled immigrants (including illegal ones) in the US?

Also, how do you propose to end terrorism? Just because policy X's aim is to end terrorism, does that mean it will actually accomplish its goals? The US has greatly increased anti-terrorism efforts in the last 14 years, yet we still have some terrorist attacks. (It's also hard to say how many prevented terrorist attacks there have been as well, though.) It's not that we should do nothing about terrorism, but that at some point we have to make a trade off between costs and benefits. For example, environmental regulations are aimed at reducing air and water pollution, but they typically have to pass some kind of cost benefit calculation to be implemented. This means in practice that some air and water pollution will still occur that may harm people, but the benefit of stopping it does not exceed the cost. If we applied that same criteria to anti-terrorism efforts, how much of the current anti-terror state do you think would survive? My guess is that a lot would go.

here is a theory--almost all studies and papers emanating from academic fields such as economics, social studies, etc are bogus and are false, all shaped so as to curry favor with the rich and powerful by favoring the interests of the rich and powerful...just like this study.

Not all of them. IQ studies are the only area not having replicability issues.

This welfare gain in India is largely the result of additional non-Indian migrants, indicating the significance of the previously overlooked externality.

So India benefits by taking skilled migrants from other countries? What happens at the end of this Ponzi scheme?

Immigration provides no benefit to host countries. It should stop.

http://www.smh.com.au/data-point/sydney-languages

don't ever come.

If you plot "benefit" (I'm not sure how you define that) against immigrant population strength, and assuming that we start with uninhabited virgin land, and that the first immigrant is the first citizen of the country, what sort of curve would you expect to get?

This paper seems consistent with Krugman's thesis that the skilled from all over the world congregate in one or two cities--Hollywood and Bollywood for example--for network effects, and it brings out the best in them. So it's very plausible.

A useful way to evaluate statements about immigration is to apply them to migration across state and city borders. When person A leaves his hometown to work with other people at a firm located in another city, do the people in A's hometown benefit? Most likely, yes. One doesn't need to live in Cupertino to benefit from an iPhone, and stopping "brain drain" from the rest of the US to Silicon Valley would likely prevent many such technologies from developing.

A useful way to evaluate statements about immigration is to apply them to migration across state and city borders.

Sure. How did that work out for Detroit? How many of the top ten cities for murder do you think were greatly enriched by the Great Migration of people from the South to the North? How well do you think Baltimore has done out of internal immigration?

Really? People from the South are born-killers? Interesting...

As it turns out Southerners of all races have higher murder rates. But it is irrelevant. As I did not say that.

When your argument depends on distorting what other people say to this extent, it is probably time to re-think.

Well, you said something about Southerners and top ten cities for murder, but for some reason you got cold feet and did not tell us which horrors "Southerners of all races" inflicted on those unsuspecting cities...

So you still need to deflect to avoid the actual argument. And try to fish for racism. Which is ironic because it is not as if I am trying to hide what I said or what I meant.

Big deal. Stop wasting my time. Deal with the actual issue.

Intra-American immigration has worked out extremely badly for the big cities of the North-East. Billions of dollars worth of property value have been destroyed and cities that used to be the centers of American culture and civilization are now unlivable. Most of them are beyond any solution but nuking from orbit.

Immigration is not a panacea. It does not cure all ills. It is often very destructive. It is something to be avoided.

Yeah, America's top murder cities have a "Southerner" problem (and it was not me, it was an apologist of yours who linked a text about those damn blacks ruining Chicago).
"Immigration is not a panacea. It does not cure all ills."
Since no one said it does...

It would better just to send those, er, "Southerners" back to the plantation, right?

And I don't exactly have to fish for racism from the guy who, talking about a Brazilian junta, divided its victims into "indians" and "people" (i.e. Whites).

Thomas Taylor December 5, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Yeah, America’s top murder cities have a “Southerner” problem

Yeah, indeed they do. They were not murder capitals before the Great Migration. They are now. The two are linked.

“Immigration is not a panacea. It does not cure all ills.” Since no one said it does…

Actually it is the standard default position here at MR. Everyone says it. BC more or less said it in the comment I replied to.

And I don’t exactly have to fish for racism from the guy who, talking about a Brazilian junta, divided its victims into “indians” and “people” (i.e. Whites).

Actually that is what my source said - as there were two very different victim communities, killed for very different reasons. Nor did I claim the terrorists were White. That is your imagination. Some were entirely indigenous and were killed for being indigenous. Some were partially indigenous (and partially African) and were killed for being Communists.

Don't foist your racially based paranoia on me.

I see, your "source" neatly separated Brazilians into "people" (i.e. Whites-- Latin American Communist militants, as opposed to mere populists, are mostly white, think the Castros and Guevara vs Chavéz and Morales) and "indians" for you. Well, at least, according to you, the geneals killed much more indians than "people". Nice of them.
You just don't know what the word "panacea" and "cures all ills" mean, do you?
http://extranosalley.com/?p=40867-mobile&ie=UTF-8#imgrc=SyJKFs-rRCqLtM%3A
The rise of homicides rates was a national trend.
http://www.atlantamagazine.com/crime-city/the-homicide-report/
And it is funny how exporting the "Southerners" did not make the South safer (maybe the other "Southerners" picked up the slack). In fact, it is almost as if other factors beyond race had something to do with America's violence rates. It can't be! Racism is the panacea that cures all ills.

This is what he meant, Thomas Taylor

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/origin1.htm

Oh, now, I understand the xold feet. "Southerners" sound better than blacks, doesn't it?

Thomas, can you elaborate a bit on your point? I'm not American, but it seems a valid idea to me that what is now termed as the South, which I've always found a bit incongruous with the actual geographic South of the US, was settled by, on average, people with a different culture than the North, and then had slaves brought over, and then economic mechanisms led to a certain model which also affected the worldview and culture, changing it compared to the North, followed by a conflict which cemented some sort of sub-identity within the wider US, marked by modes of speech, behavioral stereotypes, elements such as cuisine, habits, traditions etc. You cannot deny regional variance in cultures in the US, even for people of the same groups, can you?

The Great Migration he mentioned was blacks getting out of the Segregated South and going into industrial North/Northeast. So let's be honest here, we are not talking about "Southerners", we are not talking about "regional variance in cultures in the US, even for people of the same groups". We are simply talking about Blacks (and again, it is not clear the South profited, as long as safety is concerned, by exporting the, er, "Southerners". Its murders rates rose anywy following the narional trend).

Would a law that prohibited native Detroiters, Southerners, and Baltimoreans from ever moving make them better off? I don't think so.

That is an interesting question. Natives of Detroit and Baltimore would have been much better off if people had not been able to move to their cities. But I think we can agree they would have been worse off if other people had been allowed to move north but they had been denied the right to move to the suburbs. You do hear a case for preventing Whites and middle class Blacks doing this but it would be a little hard to enforce.

Over all, I would say the US is an anomaly. It is rare for a wealthy country to be so big. And democratic. The US and Canada are really outliers because usually rich democratic countries are small. Like Denmark. So it is entirely possible that everyone would have been better off if people had been forbidden to move - if America had copied those border laws that made Europe so interesting. After all, the greatest periods in Western culture have been the work of small isolated even insular cities - Athens, Florence, Jerusalem perhaps - not the work of big Empires like the Later Roman.

I certainly think there is a case for saying the problems of Mississippi need a solution in Mississippi. Not moving the people to Chicago so that they can live on the welfare supplied by the better organized and more responsible.

Brain drain is overrated? Tell that to Eastern/Southern Europe. These countries are condemned to never catch-up to Germany...

Poland seems to be catching up nicely.

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/poland/gdp-per-capita-ppp
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/germany/gdp-per-capita-ppp

It will either succeed in attracting back the ones who left or it will hit a wall at some point. Unless Germany stumbles because of its immigrant class, then Poland will always be behind it to some extent. The size of that difference is, right now, undetermined. But Poland, I conveniently think, is an exception that proves the rule. They're the most homogeneous Eastern European country (no Roma) and they did a lot of good things in terms of retaining key industries, revitalizing them, creating proper institutions etc. A lot of Eastern European countries deindustrialized to such an extent that they started accruing Kyoto emission certificates for being green, because of the crash in energy consumption. Rather than create new ones or revitalize the old industry to fit competitive markets, the factories rusted or were dismantled (often crookedly) and the extraordinary human capital there wasted away.

I don't think it will succeed in attracting back (a substantial number of) the ones who left, but I believe that it will do fine nonetheless.

Poland will certainly hit a will sometime - probably c. 2020, when catch-up growth slows down and population decline starts to bite (ameliorated somewhat by a not insignificant number of "returnees" and migration from Ukaine, Belarus and other Eastern European countries + a trickle from Vietnam/China). The country has failed to create either the institutions (research centres, outstanding universities etc.), clusters (think SF - technology, London - finance/law and 20 other things etc.) or public sector and private sector "practices" (think Germany) that would allow it to reach UK/US/German levels.

Nevertheless, it will do fine - it will be a bit like Italy - good food, beautiful women, relatively wealthy, healthy families, relatively slim people, accompanied by significant but not overwhelming corruption, nepotism, incompetence and population decline similar to that in Italy. Not at the "frontier" of anything significant, but a rich, civilized and cultured place nonetheless.

One caveat: the current administration is quite unpredictable, so it is "difficult to make predictions, particularly about the future..."

If they can keep their country, that is...

Uhh, did you look at the numbers on the y-axes?

Historically, what seems to work best is building your own middle class, like England, rather than importing your middle class, like Poland.

Mexico has been trying to export its working class while holding onto its middle class. It would be interesting to see a study of how that's working out.

The US also imported a large working class population from Europe at one point, amd that worked out pretty well for us ultimately. It's not clear how well we can still do this, though--the US and the world are enormously different now than 100+ years ago.

amd that worked out pretty well for us ultimately.

No, it just did not work out all that badly in the end. The counter factual would be what the country would be like had pre-1840 immigration streams been maintained throughout the succeeding generations. In 1965, the following European countries hadn't much of an immigrant population, hadn't suffered much war damage in the preceding 50 years, and hadn't been subject to the Soviet 'experiment' in erecting a command economy: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, Portugal. Portugal and Ireland were less affluent than vanguard economies, but they were still at least high-middle income.

You're assuming that people are something other than widgets, which economists are ill-equipped to do and which Bryan Caplan fancies is illegitimate on normative grounds.

Just a note on Poland: there was no sovereign Poland from 1795 to 1919 and that covers the most salient period of European industrialization. The central government prior to 1795 was notoriously feeble. The evolution of Poland's social strata cannot be said to be derived from public decisions.

What would all those sick and aging Americans do without all those foreign-born (and often foreign-trained) physicians who come to America and stay. As for foreign-born and U.S. trained economists, my recollection (from years past) is that they don't stay in the U.S. but return to their home countries and go to work for their governments as economists, crafting and implementing various ambitious macroeconomic plans. I suspect we get the better bargain (with the physicians who stay).

"What would all those sick and aging Americans do without all those foreign-born (and often foreign-trained) physicians who come to America and stay."

Get treated by NPs or PAs. The foreign-born physicians tend to go into primary care because they are bottom on the totem pole for residency positions, and they compete with the mid level providers (and US MDs too) in primary care roles.

The brain drain argument is one that works very differently depending on your moral premises. Should US immigration policy be mainly focused on:

a. Making the US and its current citizens better off?

b. Making the world better off?

My unscientific impression is that most open-borders advocates work from premise (b), and most immigration restrictionists work from premise (a).

If your goal is making the US better off, then brain drain from other countries sounds fine--bringing the most productive and smartest 1/10000 people from India or Nigeria probably benefits us, and what it does to other countries is not all that relevant for our decisions. If your goal is making the world better off, then brain drain may may do more harm than good--when, for example, someone who was a doctor in Nigeria ends up driving a cab in New York.

Are (a) and (b) independent and mutually exclusive?

I think there is a conflict, yes. I'm also not sure which side should win. On the one hand, concentrating talent is some countries probably leads to an increase in the absolute rate of innovation. On the other hand, the scourge of losing the most talented people generation after generation will leave less fortunate countries miserably talent-depleted, lacking the human capital to succeed at things like a stable democracy. Removing a country's talented class is not like picking the prettiest flowers from a meadow. The flowers grow back just as pretty the next year, but the talent-depleted populations will not regrow the talent they lost. The multi-generational brain drain that benefits us is creating some nasty places in the world, and in the end, the existence of such places will bite us in the ass.

Unless another country being stuck in an economic and institutional pit will generate problems for the US, which seems very likely, especially given the places from where the US is importing many of its new people. A lot of the educated elites left Africa immediately after the independence wave. It's a correlation, but is it at least a partial causation?

A lot of the educated elites left Africa immediately after the independence wave.

Unless you can produce evidence to back this up, I'll say you are dead wrong. Most educated professionals in newly independent countries were quite proud of that independence and very hopeful about the future. It took at least a couple of generations of civil wars, coups, dictatorships, and general misgovernment, for disillusionment to set in. Add to it the fact that in these countries, education and professionalism yield little tangible benefit; only connections to powerful people do. So, these professionals toughed it out for a long time, but then gave up and tried to migrate if possible. Something like this happened in India, from which very few people out-migrated until the 1990s. And then only because the globalized nature of the IT industry meant that a large majority of Indian graduates ended up working for Americans and other Westerners on guest worker visas, and US universities went to great lengths to attract Indian graduates with promises of future jobs in America.

India did not have a civil war and was rightly proud of being the world's largest democracy. There's a difference. Even then, their out-migration started from the top, not the bottom, which accounts for the favorable impressions they leave on Westerners.

The idea that you wait for a few generations of warfare and misery to leave, when you could, almost immediately, have a better life is naive. I'll admit the exuberance of African independence, but it quickly turned sour. And there was a perfect storm of issues in Africa combined with the 1965 Immigration Act in the US and the gradual opening up of British and French towards people from former colonies. The Rivers of Blood speech happened in 1968.

I do not know where to look for these statistics. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can help?

I think that divide exists sometimes.

But I think all the good recent empirical work shows brain gain not brain drain. Between remittances, skilled migrants returning home, spread of democratic and entrepreneurial values, and now this, I think its tough to argue the brain drain thesis anymore.

"My unscientific impression is that most open-borders advocates work from premise (b), and most immigration restrictionists work from premise (a)."

Actually, most immigration restrictionists work from the premise that US immigration policy should mainly focus on their own personal preferences above everyone else's. They don't seem to show any concern for the current US citizens that want to hire, and rent or sell homes to, immigrants.

What about the moral premise that all US government policies, including immigration policy, should be focused on protecting and not infringing on individuals' natural rights, including the right to pursue one's own happiness by entering voluntary contracts with both natives and immigrants?

" My results suggest that a policy – which doubles the number of immigrants from every non-OECD country – would boost U.S. productivity growth by 0.1 percentage point per year, and improve average welfare in the U.S. by 3.3%."

My own numbers indicate that a doubling of immigrants would increase US productivity growth by 0.2 percentages points annually but improve average welfare by only 2.8%. Of course not all non-OECD countries have the same effect. Tripling the number of Lithuanian immigrants while simultaneously halving the number of Argentinian immigrants would lower average welfare by .05 percent because of a 50% drop in tango instructors.

What does the model say about countries suffering from brain drain while experiencing rapid population aging and decline in numbers? Not every country breeds 10 more for each one that leaves.

The model can be used to evaluate the frontier growth effect of brain drain for any source country, as long as high-quality national survey data can be obtained.

Does the externality truly outweigh the effect of the skilled worker emigrating? Can it possibly?

That is the case for the observed level of emigration in India. The specific quantitative results would vary by country size and the degree of brain drain.

With aging population in Europe, Japan and the US, immigration of skilled people from other parts of the world is going to increase whether we like it or not.

It doesn't have to. That's a political choice backed by an ideology. Incidentally, it's one that guarantees maximum population dispersal and territorial gain for certain groups at the expense of other groups, in exchange for uncertain benefits. It is not proven that migrants can assimilate, that they can, in the numbers seemingly required, function at the level of natives while still maintaining adequate numbers at home for home country development, or, when they take control of society through one man, one vote, whether they will vote in favor of paying the pensions of Westerners, especially since a case has been made against them as peoples (for being racists, colonialists, exploiters etc). You can, like Japan, choose to forego the "benefits" of diversity and focus on robotics, larger labor force participation, new social arrangements, increasing national fertility, using computers to supplement a worker's skill so he can occupy a higher position etc.

Does anyone really believe that a counterfactual measure of economics contribution by skilled migrants if they did not migrate can actually be generated?

I don't, particularly if we're talking large numbers where there would be large effects from them en masse doing their own thing in their countries of origin and attracting investment in ways that are hard to predict on individual measures.

Be realistic, this is going to be "We've got a conclusion and now we want to prove it" stuff.

Just a quick comment - in reading the paper, the math may be fine, but the model IMHO does not at all reflect reality.

The visas she references increasing are H1B, which are the general use, guest worker visas for people with a bachelors degree or equivalent. The exceptional talent visas, which have few limits, are the EB2 and O1 visas. I think removing any limits from exceptional talent is great. OTOH, increasing H1B is a horrible idea.

H1B is most frequently used by IT outsourcing companies to replace mid-career IT staff with less expensive junior staff. They are not, in general, bringing in people at even the skill level of your existing staff, much less a higher level of skill or talent. Approximately half of all H1B visas go to these companies, who have figured out how to game the system, by putting in thousands of applicants, to bring in low cost staff.

The large majority of visas in this category are for the lowest skill level. The visa is notorious for being used to lay off US IT staff in their forties and fifties, people who are productive and skilled, with less expensive junior staff that they are often asked to train before they leave. These are not people doing high level CS work - they are doing skilled IT work, which is not the same thing and is not research and is not fungible with research.

The actual effect of this visa - observed effect as well as studies - is to take productive middle aged techies and turn them into unemployment check recipients, early retirees, and Starbucks baristas - while replacing them with young people at a lower, not higher, skill level.

I'm now seeing technical workers discouraging their kids from following their path. Tech has become a career with approximately the same longevity as professional sports - hit your forties, and no matter how skilled you are, you're "ancient."

A model that looks at a situation where you are forcing out skilled people and replacing them with less skilled, and models it explicitly as a situation where you are doing exactly the opposite, is not going to be able to accurately project reality.

Further, a situation where you are not only allowing, but encouraging, age discrimination against highly skilled workers has its own set of costs, societal as well as economic.

I can't overstate how upset US computer workers are getting about this. The problems with this visa need to be acknowledged.

A proper counter factual to brain drain would be to consider what happens if highly skilled immigrants move from OECD to non-OECD countries? If we in fact have reverse migration of talent. (i'm sure some economic model out there would predict this should happen, but it never does). Would gains on productivity be much greater? If top engineering talent in US moved to south asia and north africa, where they can comfortably have a fantastic standard of living with their pedigree, what does it do for the host countries? I think that partly answers the question: people, by themselves, don't matter (so much). let's leave it that.

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