Why aren’t Canada and other Anglo nations turning against immigration more?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column.  I cover several points, here is one of them, based on the economic idea of intertemporal substitution:

In this sense, Canada is ahead of much of the rest of the world in seeing the importance of these factors and turning it into actionable policy. It is willing to give up some of its present cultural identity to achieve a brighter cultural and political future.

This trade-off is much better than it looks at first. For one thing, birth rates for native-born citizens may fall further than they have already. If a country wants to preserve its national culture, it may be better off allowing more migration now, when there is still a critical mass of native-born citizens to ease assimilation.

To put the point more generally: Whatever costs there might be to immigration, successful nations will have to deal with them sooner or later. And the sooner they do, the better off they will be. The choice is not so much between more immigration and less immigration, but rather a lot of immigration now or a lot later. This choice will become all the more pressing as the need to fund national retirement programs requires more tax-paying citizens.

And on real estate prices:

One of the most common criticisms of immigrants is that they push up real estate prices. Yet there is a home-grown explanation: Stringent regulations on building make it difficult for the supply of housing to respond when demand increases.

In fact, there is a way immigration can help address this problem. First, immigrants may themselves induce their adopted country to free up its real estate markets. So immigration might increase real estate costs in the short run, but help reduce them in the longer run. Second, immigrants can help lower-tier cities move to the fore. The suburbs of Toronto, for example, have seen much of their growth driven by Asian in-migration, and longer term that will give Canadians more residential (and commercial) options.

These points aside, note that higher real estate prices, to the extent they result from immigrant demands, largely translate into capital gains for homeowners — most of whom are native-born. To be sure, the higher home prices may be bad for many younger Canadians, who may be locked out of housing markets, but eventually many of them will inherit high-valued homes from their parents.




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