Tucker Carlson is wrong. Refugees are good for the economy.
The reason we should care about refugees is because they are people.
But, unfortunately, for many people that is an insufficient moral statement. Even for him tens of thousands of Afghans who risked their lives working alongside the US military for the past 20 years. Let’s put it another way: the evidence shows that accepting refugees also benefits the host country.
That hasn’t stopped some from arguing that refugees are somehow a burden to the United States, as the country watches the aftermath of President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.
On Fox News, Tucker Carlson ended up blaming refugees for our current housing crisis. After correctly diagnosing the problem as insufficient housing supply, he does not go on to explain what most housing experts have clearly stated would be the solution (that the United States needs to build more homes to meet growing demand). Instead, he says the reason the country has a growing demand for housing is … immigrants?
“When the supply goes down, the cost goes up,” says Carlson. “One of the reasons this is happening is that the United States is becoming much more populated than ever and one of the reasons for that is that we are experiencing the largest influx of refugees in the history of the United States.”
This is false; The increase in demand is due to historically low mortgage rates and the entry into force of the largest generation in US history (millennials) into the housing market. (This is all the more ironic since Carlson himself has criticized against real solutions to the housing crisis in his program). The claim that the United States has more refugees than ever is also false, as research by the Migration Policy Institute shows, the country is actually allowing a record number of refugees to enter.
The rhetoric that the nation is overcrowded is not borne out in reality. Cities like London, Seoul, Tokyo are much denser than any of the major cities in the United States, so making room for the current population of the United States, as well as immigrants, is completely under the control of legislators.
But this desire to represent refugees as a burden is widespread. Even some advocates of opening America’s doors use language similar to that of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. statement in 2015 that the country should accept our “fair share” of Syrian refugees. In the White House, concerns that refugees could be politically costly weigh heavily: Politico reported that the Biden administration was previously concerned that bringing in more refugees would provoke a conservative reaction and jeopardize its national policy agenda.
The fact of the matter is that, for both selfless and selfish reasons, America should welcome more people. In small towns or cities in decline, they can help reverse depopulation trends that threaten the financial viability of the region. Even in growing places where many people seek to live and work, refugees provide a clear economic benefit.
Refugees are a blessing and can help revive distressed peoples
UC San Diego political scientist Claire Adida recently reviewed the economic literature in a Twitter thread, concluding that “refugees are an economic blessing to their host communities.”
She quotes investigate showing that refugees in Rwanda who received $ 120 to $ 126 in cash aid from the United Nations “increased real annual income in the economy from $ 205 to $ 253”.
Evidence in the US shows that “after 6 years in the country, these refugees work at higher rates than the natives. … [Researchers] they estimate that refugees pay $ 21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits during their first 20 years in the United States. ”
Beyond their pervasive impact, refugees can also help solve one of the toughest urban policy problems facing the United States: how to induce growth in cities and towns outside of coastal superstars and the growing sunbelt. To 2019 report by Economic Innovation Group (EIG) found that “uneven population growth is leaving more places behind. 86 percent of counties are now growing more slowly than the nation as a whole, up from 64 percent in the 1990s. “
Various market forces have pushed the majority of high-paying jobs to a handful of cities. This phenomenon is known as “agglomeration economies”, something that the economist Enrico Moretti explained to Vox earlier this year: “The economies of agglomeration … [are] the tendency for employers and workers to cluster geographically in a handful of locations. “
One factor is that employees who split up to start their own businesses often do so in the same cities in which they were working. More generally, grouping workers and industries in the same place increases employment opportunities for workers and increases skilled labor for employers. In addition, large numbers of young college graduates have a preference for urban settings, and companies often follow valuable workforce groups.
This has a huge effect on the US economy, as more higher-income workers cluster in the same cities, the demand for goods and services (from legal services to restaurants to plumbers) also changes. Encouraging companies and young professionals to move to your city is a difficult problem for mayors.
As highly educated workers move, cities can reduce their populations. That, in turn, leads to lower taxes, which means a decrease in public services. It also means lower demand for goods and services, leading to higher unemployment, as companies don’t need as many workers to serve a shrinking population. This turns into a dangerous spiral as rising unemployment and declining youth populations make these places even less attractive to new entrants and startups. This is one of the most vexing problems facing slums and towns in decline.
One way to fix this problem? Refugee resettlement.
The authors of the EIG report propose a similar innovative policy proposal: place-based visas, called “visas of the heart,” that would lead immigrants to the US to live in communities “facing the consequences of demographic stagnation.” and they desperately need new entrants. These visas would not limit the places immigrants can visit or travel, but would “simply require that their residence and place of work be somewhere within a specific geography.” Similar visas have been successful in Canada and Australia.
There is a reason why various governors (both Republicans and Democrats) have indicated their support for the resettlement of refugees in their states.
While many have tried to argue that immigrants hurt Native Americans’ economic prospects, the research is clear on this too: Immigration does not reduce native wages. Economist Noah Smith reviews the academic literature on refugee waves and finds that immigration “it is a positive shock of labor demand; ” that “immigrants do not cause unemployment to natives; “there was”no impact on the labor market ”of immigration in Turkey or In Israel; that “immigration increased native wages in the long run “; and it didn’t even hurt me “high school dropouts. “
The case for opening the doors of the United States is clear. Refugees and immigrants are not only good for the economy, they can also help us reverse dangerous trends in stagnant cities and towns. Lawmakers should stop referring to refugees as a burden and trust that new Americans will benefit the nation.