Does Immigration Boost Growth? A Look at Data From Around the World

Yves here. This post confirms the intuition of many readers, that immigration is not a plus for growth…at least in the post-financial-crisis low-growth environment. And there is no sign we are getting out of that ditch any time soon.

By Mike Kimel. Originally published at Angry Bear

This post uses data from the World Bank to look at the effect of migration on countries around the world. I will begin by looking at all countries for which the World Bank has data, then drill down.

So to begin, the data used in this post:

1. Net migration, by country available here. The most recent data is from 2012. Net migration is defined as the “total number of immigrants less the annual number of emigrants, including both citizens and noncitizens. Data are five-year estimates.” As an example, the US reportedly had net migration of 5,007,887 (i.e., positive) in 2007 through 2012, while Bangladesh had a figure of -2,226,481 (i.e., negative) in the same years. That should fit with your intuition.

2. PPP GDP per capita. Data available here. The last year for which data is available is 2015.

3. Data on population through 2015.

I started by looking at immigration relative to the size of the population. I assumed that the net migration figure was the same in each of the five years. (I know – not correct, but reasonable.) I then divided the Net Migration from 2012 by Population from 2012. I then compared that to the annualized growth in PPP GDP per capita from 2012 to 2015. In other words, I looked at the Net Migration as a share of the Population in 2012 and the growth rate in the subsequent three years. I put both series up on a scatter plot.

Before I put up the graph, I would also note that I did leave some data out. It goes without saying that if a country did not report information, I did not include it. Additionally, countries reporting zero net migration were left out. After all, even North Korea has escapees, er, migrants, even if they won’t admit to it. Otherwise, everything went into the pot leaving a sample of 176 countries. Here’s what the relationship between Net Migration (from as a share of the Population in 2012 and the growth in PPP GDP per capita from 2012 to 2015 looks like for them:

Figure 1

The correlation is -0.32. That is, countries with higher Net Migration as a share of their Population tended to perform less well over the subsequent three years. In other words, it is better to give than to receive, at least when it comes to migrants.

Of course, if we want to understand the effect of Net Migration in the US and other Western Countries, perhaps it makes sense to narrow things down. The next graph uses only countries deemed to be “High Income” by the World Bank. I also restricted the sample to countries with populations exceeding 1 million people to avoid trying to learn life lessons based on recent happenings in Monaco or Andorra. Here’s what that looks like:

Figure 2

The population sample dropped from 176 countries to 44, and the correlation tightened up a bit to -0.48.

Frankly, I think the sample still needs cleaning up. Most of the points on the graph look bunched up because there are a few countries with very, very high Net Migration. For example, Oman is at 6.8%(!!!!), Qatar 3.6%, Kuwait 3.0% and Singapore 1.5%. These are mostly special cases, even for high income countries, and I would venture to say, provide very few lessons on immigration that are applicable to the US or most of the West. Limiting the sample to countries with Net Migrants to Population under 1.4%, the graph now looks like this:

Figure 3

This doesn’t change the outcome much, but it makes things easier to see. If desired, we can cut out one more outlier – this one on account of excessive economic growth. The point on the far right side of the graph is Ireland, bouncing back (in PPP GDP) from the monster collapse in 2007-8. Removing Ireland as well gives us this:

Figure 4

The absolute value of the correlation drops, but the fact remains: we are still left with a negative correlation between Net Migration as a percentage of the Population in 2012 and the growth in PPP GDP per capita between 2012 and 2015. We can do a bit more pruning, but frankly, the data simply refuses to support Holy Writ. Sure, these graphs don’t prove that immigration is bad for growth. However, they make it very, very hard to argue that immigration had a positive effect on growth during the past few years. Of course, that isn’t what we hear from our betters.

I will follow up this post with looks at other periods for which data is available from the World Bank. Meanwhile, I put together a spreadsheet that allows the user to make changes to the dates or downselect the data through income level, population, etc. It’s a bit large, but I will send it to anyone who contacts me for it within a month of the publication of this post.  I can be reached at mike and a dot and my last name (note – just one “m” in my last name) and the whole thing is at

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  1. Jeff

    Perhaps we’d need a bit more analytic than just raw data. Syrian refugees flooding Jordan probably won’t boost GDP over there, and African migrants into France help keep wages low at the low-end.
    But I’d like to raise this point which made the rounds last year.
    The arrival of refugees in Sweden was a big boon to the economy, as they need a place to live (housing, furniture, kids in school). Instead of Sweden opening a new market, the market came to Sweden.

    1. benny

      Don’t you need to supply goods and services to people that can pay before you can call it a market?

      1. tony

        The Swedish state pays for it. It is basically deficit spending. Sweden also has a housing crisis and the immigration makes it worse, which shows up as a positive in the GDP calculations as increase in rents and real estate prices.

        1. Si

          I have come across a stat which is that 5% of immigrants in Belgium soak up 40-60% of the social services budget. Larger Government spending does add to GDP, but it has to be negative for wealth if the budget is simply consumed. Contribution to the economy is the only measure which matters which I am sure is much harder to assess.

          Early immigrants into Sweden had to learn the language and tended to integrate. It makes sense that with a large influx that that incentive disappears along with the ability to work generally.

          Any sensible debate about immigration is prevented by a meme which presents views that question immigration as racist.

    2. fajensen

      Based on the publisher, The Guardian, I would say is it the usual agitprop from the usual people who dont have to compete with immigrants for space and ressources. People similar to me.

      The alleged “big boon” is about 30 Billion SEK that has been taken from government budgets and given to various cronies running the privatized, for-profit, Swedish refugee facilities. I am sure The Market is happy about that ;)

      Now, of course deficit spending works for a while. It does not work so well when public budgets are later cut everywhere else to fund it with. Healthcare is already a bit shit here, it can get way shittier one suspects. It is impossible to get a dentist appointment due to refugees – unless it is via private insurance. Swedish Police are always fairly useless – even before, the city of Malmö the murder rate will usually beat the country of Denmark in May. This year it seems to be early, probably in April. They just whacked a 16 year old kid yesterday.

      What the Guardian forgot is that the Swedish government is also planning to hire about 10000 new police officers to get somewhat in front of the crime wave following “the invasion”. Of course the Swedes don’t say that, exactly, just that the police is under-manned and stressed. They are upscaling the military too “because Russians”.

      Something is cooking here. Everybody in authority seems to have cracked their heads a little over Hillary losing.

      1. Jeff

        Whatever the source (the Independent, not the Guardian, and it is the first one I found in English), one cannot ignore the surprise the Swedish themselves had. This kind of GDP growth rate has been seen nowhere in Europe for the last 20+ years, and is rare nowadays anyplace on earth. So they did spend some time to investigate where that figure came from.
        You may claim that GDP is an imperfect measure.

        I am also tempted to put as a data point of proof that deficit spending creates growth.

        1. backwardsevolution

          “…deficit spending works for a while. It does not work so well when public budgets are later cut everywhere else to fund it with.”

          It creates growth for some, the people who are screaming for the “immigrants”. They’re the ones who end up benefiting, and they know it. Everyone else is squeezed. I am tired of this type of nonsense.

          Instead of bringing in immigrants to “make work,” how about YOU move. Take your business to where the immigrants are (how about Somalia or Iraq) and make a go of it. Good luck on that.

          No, you want your own countrymen to suffer while you rake in the profits and remain in your lovely city. You want more business? You move.

        2. Jesper

          I’d claim that GDP is not only an imperfect measure it is also a gamed measure. Also, it is by definition a very nationalistic measure: Look at our country how great it is, GDP is growing.
          GDP went up, did the well being go up as well?
          In Sweden, for many, maybe even most, well being went up in the short term. As for it being a surprise, it is only a surprise for people not understanding how GDP is measured….

          And as always, the robbers who got the most of the gains will try to portray the victims of the robbers as losers of globalisation (the modern times, neanderthals who does not deserve to live and should be forbidden to vote for measures protecting them).

          ‘Boon to the economy’ or blowing up a bubble? Time will tell and that time might be as soon as in 2019/2020.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    A lot of this looks instinctively right. When you look at the economic performance of countries which have been historically open to in and out migration and those that haven’t, its hard to see any particular trend. Sweden and Denmark, for example, have had very different approaches to immigration, and the only really visible difference is that Sweden has been better at football the last 20 years or so.

    I’d caution though that migration figures are notoriously inaccurate. I doubt if any country really knows how many migrants it has, or how many have left. Its not just about illegals – many people who leave a country keep an official ‘residence’ (maybe their parents) for tax or social welfare reasons. Likewise, there are many in-migrants who leave little official trace because they prefer it that way. A rule of thumb when I worked in London was that there were around one million people more in the city than were in official figures – this isn’t just illegals, many are just people ‘passing through’ who don’t bother going through official channels. I recall a few years ago in Ireland the census figures identified ‘13,500 native mandarin speakers’ and official policy was predicated on this figure, but it was pointed out that the four mandarin language newspapers had a combined circulation of 80,000! Maybe lots of Irish were learning mandarin, but I doubt it. There was a similar story for Polish and Russian language newspapers.

    I don’t know if there are any studies on the topic, but I would have thought the main impact of migration economically would be on reinforcing structural economic cycles. A construction boom can be maintained much longer than ‘natural’ if there is a steady inflow of construction workers – lack of skilled workers is almost always the major drag on the industry on an upturn. This is certainly one reason why the Irish property boom was so intense up to 2007 – there was simply no natural cost cut-off, investors could keep building at a reasonable price so long as the money was flowing. Likewise, out-migration can act as a sort of social safety valve regionally or nationally during recession periods. You are much less likely to get riots if all the young people have gone somewhere else to get work.

    1. Ivy

      Construction worker inflow and speculation were driving factors in the Las Vegas boom and bust. They built a lot of homes, many of which were then ‘rented’ to them to show how absorption was going and to disguise fundamental imbalances in the market. When the market crashed, the workers got back in their pickups to drive to their real homes scattered all over the south and west. That was win-win-win for the workers *(big checks), lenders (loan volume and fees) and developers (cash out early), until it became lose-lose-lose for the ones left holding the bag. The cities were along for the ride looking for more taxpayers.

  3. Verwischt

    I think the correlation between Net Migration as a percentage of the Population and growth in PPP GDP per capita doesn’t help much to answer the question ‘does immigration boost growth’.
    There are too many confounders around and I am highly skeptical that it is even possible to answer this question with a quantitative methodology. If you try to do this, you certainly have to correct for a general slower growth trend among advanced economies, which tend to draw immigration.
    I think this is what we are seeing in this graph. Immigration is just a proxy for economic development and economic development draws immigration. One could look at Japan to correct for this – which is the only country I can think of with a very tight immigration policy that’s in the top tier economically. Maybe North Korea. But still if you don’t narrow the question down, all you see in a quantitative study is noise and confounders.

    There are many studies around claiming that immigration boosts a country’s economy, which are then happily quoted by John Oliver or other liberals because it fits their narrative.

    But hell you don’t need a PhD to figure out, that uncontrolled immigration exerts high pressure on the unskilled labor force of a country, when there is already unemployment raging among the unskilled. It is also quite evident, that it’s not for the best of a country, when all their brightest and best educated folks go permanently abroad, at the first opportunity.

    But the topic is so highly emotionalized that it’s hard to reason at all. While topics like economic protectionism at least have some grassroot support among progressives nowadays, the moment you even hint at some problems that may arise with complete freedom of movement, 70% of all left/liberal thinking people shut off and become defensive.

    So in conclusion I think it is not a good idea to try to make general statements of this sort. You are not going to get conclusive answers if you ask questions like ‘is immigration good for economies’ and every side will crunch the numbers until they have the desired outcome. I think it’s better to focus specific waves and forms of immigration and look at their effects.

  4. visitor

    This just about counts as a start. A correlation coefficient of -0.36 means that the percentage net migration explains less than 13% of the variation of GDP growth 3 years hence. Further tests are needed to determine whether this is statistically significant or not, but on first appraisal, the values of r and r2 seem low.

    More interesting would be to investigate the lagged correlation coefficient, but data seems insufficient for the period of interest.

  5. Jim Haygood

    I looked at the Net Migration as a share of the Population in 2012 and the growth rate in the subsequent three years.

    Reminds me of them CLO models back in Bubble II that used four years of mortgage default data to support AAA ratings. That’s not even a whole business cycle. But the math looked impressive to rating agencies.

    By definition, GDP growth is the sum of employment growth and productivity growth. That’s how the US built the foundations of its future superpower status in the 19th century: massive immigration coupled with massive technology-fueled productivity growth.

    Immigration of low-skilled or aged cohorts may not contribute to economic growth. That’s why some countries have points-based systems, to screen for younger, well-qualified immigrants who can contribute to the economy. To the extent that illegal immigrants are more enterprising and risk-taking than their cousins back home, they may self-screen for these desirable qualities.

    1. oho

      ‘That’s how the US built the foundations of its future superpower status in the 19th century: massive immigration coupled with massive technology-fueled productivity growth.’

      Throw in an undeveloped, temperate, fertile sparsely populated continental land mass with lots of resources gotten for nearly free that needed some sweat equity.

      1. r00fus

        Don’t forget the slavery economy that drove (even after the end of the civil war) the 1700/1800s. Economies of scale that couldn’t exist without massive manual labor for tobacco, cotton, etc.

        It was mostly replaced with the advent of industrial growth but the labor was not paid for.

    2. fajensen

      That’s how the US built the foundations of its future superpower status in the 19th century: massive immigration coupled with massive technology-fueled productivity growth.

      I’d say that the USD ending up being the global Reserve Currency is the most significant factor. The US can procure resources and whole business for that matter, with an infinite amount of depreciating currency at it’s disposal. This depreciation works as a global tax on all users of the USD that accrues in the US – because the US can always print more USD to compensate.

      Of course it works till it doesn’t. It doesn’t work if one, , for example, instead of using USD trades ressources with Russia using EUR. Which is where Russophobia and Arab Spring comes into play.

      1. craazyboy

        Floating World-Reserve Currency

        The dollar usually depreciates less fast than most other currencies. On a relative basis, it is maintaining, or losing less fast, its purchasing power for imports, or acquisition of foreign assets.

        Since it is somewhat more stable than most other currencies, Treasuries can be sold at lower interest rates because buyers don’t price in currency risk.

        But over the long term, economists believe it’s very important that the Floating World as a whole slowly sinks.

  6. oho

    ‘Frankly, I think the sample still needs cleaning up. Most of the points on the graph look bunched up because there are a few countries with very, very high Net Migration.’

    Shouldn’t explain away data. Due to the politically/culturally sensitive topic of the data, obviously an incentive for personal politics to drive conclusions either way.

  7. Jim

    The most important factor about immigration is the nature of the immigrants. High-skilled Northeast Asians with an average IQ of 105 immigrating to the US for example is very different from low-skilled mestizos with an average IQ of 90.

    1. fajensen

      I would claim that there can certainly be lots of GDP-“Growth” produced by people like SAIC, Raytheon, G4S, building and running a vast surveillance and population control infrastructure for government to control the obvious results of uncontrolled “low value immigration”.

      I suspect that, with modern technology, whole countries can be turned into Chicago, DRK or The Ghaza Strip and still manage to have “Growth”, when measured by GDP per capita.

      What should instead be discussed it what kind of human outcomes we, society, want to have from Immigration.

      1. Dave

        Yet here you are.
        You can see the disgusting look on the face of Americans who enter stores and have to deal with people greeting the public who cannot speak anything but rudimentary English.
        You can see the disgusting attitude of fifth generation Americans who have to work nights, weekends, holidays and “compete” with an endless ant line of abused employees from Central America.
        You can see the disgusting habits of people living in their cars because all the cheap apartments in town are occupied by upwards of ten people living dormitory style.

        Yeah, report back to us about the disgusting things you see. I’m sure none of what I portrayed above refers to you. Your type of “sensitivity” usually lives in a privileged all white wealthy community and the only interactions with “others” is the maid or the latest P.O.C. novel that your professors require you to read in college.

        1. backwardsevolution

          Dave – well put! Yeah, many of these people who are “at a loss for words” remain untouched. They have absolutely no frigging idea.

          1. j84ustin

            Y’all don’t know me, and to defend someone who categorized an entire group of people of having lower IQs is racist, if we’re being honest. But go ahead and blame the “other” – it’s especially in vogue right now.

            1. Tim

              I concur with J84ustin.

              The comment from Jim has no defense. Pure speculation on IQ based on what, a bias against those of a different ethinicity?

              People with small worlds typically think of foreigners that do not know their native language fluently as being dumb, when quite the opposite may actually (and quite often) be true.

              Education levels could be point for discussion but that was not present, and I”m not sure the pertinence of that to low skill labor where HARD WORK is a greater virtue, something that the scary brown culture possesses, that lesser people may find threatening.

            2. Jim

              There is an extensive body of psychometric data on the various populations of the world and they show a considerable range in average scores. From Mbuti pygmy at less than 60 to Ashkenazi Jews at about 112 is over 4 standard deviations. However Mbuti pygmies and Ashkenazi Jews are pretty extreme outliers and the bulk of the world’s population would probably fit into 2-2.5 standard deviations.

              All biological traits show variation between different populations. Variation in average height for example is about 3-4 standard deviations, somewhat greater than the variation in IQ. Variation in average IQ of human populations is no more surprising than variation in average height or average anything else.

                1. Jim

                  The population with the highest documented IQ scores are Ashkenazi Jews who have an extraordinary record of accomplishment in intellectual demanding fields. About 30-40% of the top mathematicians and physicists of the 20th century were Ashkenazi Jews. About 50% of the top world chess players since about the middle of the19th century have been Ashkenazi Jews. Ashkenazi accomplishment in intellectually demanding fields is 2-3 orders of magnitude above what would be expected in proportion to their numbers.

                  Similarly civilizations populated predominantly by Northeast Asians have been among the most advanced in the world since the time of the Shang dynasty.

                  Across the contemporary world the ranking of different populations by economic success, educational attainment, etc. virtually always is in accordance with their ranking by average IQ. This is true in Southeast Asia as much as in the US. Populations with low average IQ scores have consistently lagged behind populations with higher average IQ scores over thousands of years of human history.

                  1. charles leseau

                    About 50% of the top world chess players since about the middle of the19th century have been Ashkenazi Jews.

                    This is at the least misleading, if not outright false.

                    1. There is no given cutoff for what “top” constitutes.

                    2. What actually happened with chess is cultural & sociopolitical. The USSR heavily promoted chess in the 20th century. With Russian persecution of the Jews, chess became especially popular in their communities because it represented a way to favourable treatment. Ashkenazi Jews historically settled most densely in central Europe, Russia, and its surrounding imperial territories during the diaspora.

                    Jewish strength in chess has been predominantly Russian or Russian satellite or expat during the time you describe. Look at the wiki on “Jewish chess players” and note that most are Russian or former Soviet bloc:

                    The US has accumulated a much larger Jewish population than Russia and yet has a comparatively low historical chess strength because Americans by and large don’t care about chess. If there were some sort of genetic predisposition to be great at it, the US and Israel would dominate in the last 50 years, but they don’t and never have.

                    China has been promoting chess heavily in recent times, and – surprise – there’s been a massive increase in Chinese international chess prowess, with more Chinese GMs than ever before.

                    In fact, the game has become more global in general, and if we look at the top 100 now…


                    …we see that Jewish strength at the top is not now anywhere near 50%, with – among other things – only one Jew in the current top 10 (Aronian).

                    And if by “top” we mean world champions, we get:

                    1. Staunton (UK)+
                    2. Anderssen (Germany)+
                    3. Morphy (US)+
                    4. Steinitz (German Jew)
                    5. Lasker (German Jew)
                    6. Capablanca (Cuba)
                    7. Alekhine (Russia)
                    8. Euwe (Netherlands)
                    9. Botvinnik (Russian Jew)
                    10. Smyslov (Russian)
                    11. Tal (Latvian Jew)
                    12. Petrosian (Russia)
                    13. Spassky (Russia)
                    14. Fischer (US – Jewish by blood but not culture or religion)
                    15. Karpov (Russia)
                    16. Kasparov (Russian Jew)
                    17. Kramnik (Russia)
                    18. Khalifman (Russian Jew)*
                    19. Vishy Anand (India)
                    20. Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine)*
                    21. Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzbekistan)*
                    22. Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria)*
                    23. Magnus Carlsen (Norway)

                    +Pre-FIDE, but representing period between 1850-1885.

                    *Disputed champions due to FIDE schism, 1993-2006. Wins obtained by knockout tournaments rather than traditional match events.

                    Of these 23 players, we get 9 Russians, 1 Ukrainian, 1 Uzbek, 1 Bulgarian, and 1 Latvian, representing 13 Russian or Soviet bloc players, or 56% of all champions being Eastern Europeans, Jewish or no. It’s clearly much more about being Eastern European (especially Russian) at the top than being Jewish. Even including Fischer, 7 of all 23 champions were Jews, which is 30%, not 50%.

                    Canadians aren’t genetically superior at hockey either.

                    1. aab

                      Thank you for doing this. I lost my temper in one of my replies not just because his views are so noxious and false, but his misrepresentations are so vaporous it was hard to even figure out how to grab a hold of anything concrete enough to disprove.

                      Two more quick thoughts: 1) Chess does not actually take extremely high intelligence to succeed at it. As with training in classical music, people confuse the benefits of practicing discipline and the act of learning how to learn something that requires repetition and memorization with actually enhancing or even significantly exploiting global or fluid intelligence. That’s why these activities are used for class-signalling. They don’t take extreme intelligence or make extreme intelligence. However, the family needs the excess financial resources, stability and free time to obtain the ongoing training over years for the moderately talented typical player to gain mastery. I was a piano prodigy at one point, but my rapid skill development also required access to an excellent teacher and lots of practice time. 2) At one point people of Jewish descent in America were heavily represented in music and team sports. Now African Americans are. Evolution could not explain these differing outcomes in under a century. But class status and differing opportunities available based on class position explains it perfectly.

                      I’m the descendant of two different ethnic groups both of which survived multiple attempted genocides. In both cases, my biological ancestors were considered inferior on the basis of their “race”: the Irish and Ashkenazi Jews. Now, my genetic tribes are considered classy and “smart.” Now, we’re valuable to people like Jim. But evolution doesn’t work like that. The Irish weren’t lazy then but hardworking now. The Jews weren’t sneaky then but honorable now. We are all of African descent, no matter how much that may dismay Jim. People who don’t get enough to eat because monstrous invaders have stolen their resources and enslaved them are, funnily enough, at risk for smaller brain mass, because the brain is mostly saturated fat; without enough caloric density consumed, brain mass will shrink. Stress reduces brain functionality. So if you’re poor or live in a war-torn environment, your cognitive function will be negatively impacted. Many, many factors impact how and why an individual or a group thrives over time.

                      I hope others calmer than me can disprove some of the other racist claims in this thread. It pains me that this bile is sitting here.

              1. aab

                I can’t take the time to write up something detailed right now, but consider this a placeholder.

                You don’t seem to understand much about what psychometric tests measure or what those scores actually mean. I say this as someone whose official IQ was scored as extremely, extremely high by numerous instruments at different points in my life. Yes, there’s every reason to believe that what we generally mean when we say “intelligence” is highly variable across the species. Because of many, many factors, making claims about variability in functional intelligence across cultures and ethnic groups is far more suspect. I suggest you not do that.

                Edited to add: This is directed at Jim, and it reflects the underlying truth that current IQ testing should be considered fairly unreliable even for the factors it purports to measure, which could not be considered a valid reflection of overall human cognitive function.

                1. Jim

                  You state that you are an individual with a high IQ score as measured on standard IQ tests. I would guess then that you are highly intelligent. However please let me know if you are an exception to this correlation. That is are you an individual with a high IQ score who does not otherwise exhibit any signs of high intelligence?

                  1. aab

                    Oh, for heaven’s sake. Read my many, many posts here if you want evidence of my intelligence. Which of my many accomplishments would you accept as evidence of intelligence? Being accepted to essentially the entire Ivy League? Being admitted to a honors major at Harvard that was competitive, meaning I had to compete against other Harvard students? Since I’m not famous, how exactly am I supposed to prove my personal worth to you?

                    Moreover, my personal qualifications are irrelevant. Look up the Flynn Effect, and consider what it says about culture and testing results. Current IQ tests are poorly normed for upper scoring, because it’s too expensive to do that well, and the reality is that the upper middle class individuals who seek out testing most often don’t actually want to know that their children are not in the highest category of intelligence. Then there’s the problem that the people who design the tests tend to design them to reflect their own cognitive strengths and knowledge bases.

                    I’m not saying the currently available instruments have no value. I’m just saying they are rougher tools than your claims indicate. You’re making assertions based on biology, if I understand you correctly, that are neither true or even provable with the tools we currently have available.

                    You were arguing that intelligence is how we determine human productive worth. Let me assure you that even IF IQ tests were much more reliable and dispositive than they are and IF they then could prove that different ethnic groups have clearly different average levels of intelligence (they don’t, and probably couldn’t, because those differences are not there in the way you assert), that still would not be a valid measure of human productive worth.

                    I’ve been in many, many communities putatively for the hyper-intelligent. I have never noticed any evidence that “we” are innately, measurably more productive and valuable. I advocate for us to merely be treated as equals, rather than scorned, punished and shunned, as often happens in this culture. I bet FDR wasn’t our smartest president, by quite a bit. Would you say he was of no value?

                    The neoliberal claim that “smart” is the be all and end all of human value is nonsense — mostly because the neoliberal system selects more for compliance, status-seeking and greed than any aspect of cognitive function. But setting that aside, having a brain that processes a lot of data quickly while accessing massive memory systems across multiple domains is fine and all, but to claim that this and only this can determine whether a human can be of value to her community is factually as well as morally wrong.

        2. Rojo

          None of what you wrote — and I agree with some of it — has anything to do with the racist remarks. This is EXACTLY why we can’t have a discussion about immigration. The bigots always step in with “yeah, and another thing…..”

      2. fajensen

        Well, you could perhaps write that response, once you decide on a good one, in a letter to Canada who is implementing “Jims” statement as actual policy, not just words on the Internet, words only affecting our sensibilities, not the fates of actual living people!?

        “B.b.buut Trudeau’s Canada is soo Progressive” I hear our fickle lefties screetch! Hah!!

        As a European, I don’t see the fairness or need to be stealing Africa’s doctors, nurses or engineers since I can – and I have done too – hire a young Greek or Spanish engineer for about 1000 EUR/month in Spain or Greece, about 3000 if here in Sweden.

        Romanian’s are even cheaper. Polish, Czech Republic the same. Many of them are good as well, and Danes have a similar humor to Czech people. Easy to work with.

        Over time, if the EU did nothing, these differences would even out and things would stabilize. “They” would be better off, we slightly worse, but not so much. But things are NOT allowed to stabilize. Never. Always the lower rung of the social ladder has to be moved down by including poorer or more dysfunctional states in the EU, “reforms” and of course mass immigration.

        With the number of struggling people we already cannot, or rather absolutely will not (because Markets), provide a life with decent opportunities and prospects for Now, it is sheer insanity just to keep adding to that enormous pile of underemployed, poor and pressurized people that basically will be going nowhere in life because what they have to offer is not what “The Market” wants. “The Market” just want to have “Competition”. Social Darwinism, gladiator stuff really: The poor killing themselves and each other for space.

        Something will collapse under the strain. Is collapsing. In Rosengården in Malmö right now, Kildeparken in Copenhagen, Rinkeby & Tensta in Stockholm. This gangsta-islamist crap running amok here is New.

    2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      Nobody’s really capable of knowing any of the IQs of who’s moving in or out of countries. Even if you could measure it, what matters is class and cultural politics. The United States back in the early 19th century connived to steal half of Mexico and the descendants of all the people who thought that was part of God’s Plan are unhappy today with the fact that, like when you put a fence up in the middle of the range of an elk herd, the population of that region didn’t somehow just go away. The US has never been interested in Mexico becoming a potential economic rival, or having any sort of real independence (they might ally with England, France or Germany!)
      Also, people from Asia have a big geographical barrier against them compared to Central America. And thank heaven otherwise we’d be swarmed with low IQ Chinese, Japanese and whatall else.

      1. Jim

        The psychometric data shows an average IQ for Mexico of 89. That’s not particularly low. It’s about the world average but no really first world economy has an average IQ at that level. Japan for example has an average IQ of 107.

        Mestizos are not coming over the US-Mexican border to work as computer programmers. They are coming to work as unskilled laborers. Many of the jobs they might qualify for may well be automated out of existence in the not so distant future. We already have enough problems with essentially unemployable populations in our country today.

        1. inhibi

          IQ is a bullshit metric, propagated by its very authors, to the demise of any rational, logical look at “intelligence” which is such a vast topic that the very idea of a SINGLE number as metric should be so shocking as to emit instant disbelief.

          For example, the fact that Sub-Saharan Africans score around 40 points and that is used by phrenologists & other pseudo-scientists as proof of white superiority illustrates the hilarity in how myopic the view surrounding intelligence is. Had Sub-Saharan Africans made their own intelligence test, no doubt it would be the intellectual American urbanites scoring 40 points.

          Enough said.

          1. Jim

            No group in Sub-Saharan Africa or anywhere else in the world scores at an average of 40. IQ scores from SSA generally range from around 60-80. The lowest scores in the world come from Australian Aborigines, Khoisan, Mbuti Pygmies but they are well above 40. I recall an average of 62 from one study of Australian Aborigines.

            Sub-Saharan Africans though do have IQ scores quite a bit lower than found in Eurasia or North Africa. The average brain size of SSA’s is about 95% of Europeans. Average brain size of Northeast Asians is about 102% of European and the average brain size of Australian Aborigines is about 85% of European.

            As far as I know no Sub-Saharan African ever devised any psychometric test of any kind. That is in keeping with their generally low level of cultural achievements. They have lagged behind the Eurasian continent since the Mousterian 50,000 years ago.

            1. aab

              These are repulsive assertions. You are a repulsive person. Since you are so confident that race is biologically meaningful, what’s yours?

              Yves, I know we’re not supposed to insult other commenters. Please remove this if I am being out of line.

              1. ScottB

                You are not out of line about him making repulsive assertions. Jim is serving up a racist argument. Jim, I hope you can take a step back and take a look at what you’re saying. Most communities have a group or groups of people working against racism. I hope you engage with some people locally and listen carefully. And learn.

              2. Jim

                My ancestry is from Germany and the British Isles. I have no Ashkenazi ancestry that I know of.

                Analysis of an individual’s polynucleotides can determine people’s self-reported racial identification in the US with virtually zero error. Humans are biological organisms. Everything about them is biological and in biology nothing is more central than the chemical structure of an organism’s polynucleotides.

                1. Felix_47

                  As a biologist I would consider the people from grossly overpopulated areas quite successsful. They are surviving and multiplying rapidly….. Decades ago they would starve in place. They have mastered how to get to the first world and prosper biologically. The bottom line is what organism in the Petri dish takes over is the biological success. It is pretty obvious that no matter what IQ tests say or the SAT or whatever cultural measure you want to use the future of this planet will be shaped by the people of Africa and southern and western Asia. You and your ancestors will end up a footnote in history a lot sooner than you think. We see that today in Europe. Who do you think is biologically more fit for survival?

                2. Yves Smith Post author

                  That is total garbage. There is tons of research showing that which genes express is a function of environment, and that stresses can show up across generations even when the children/grandchildren were not subject to the stress that the ancestor was.

    3. Larry Y

      I’ll call a spade, a spade.

      Recycled pablum too. Replace “mestizos” with Irish (or Southern or East Europeans), and “Northeast Asians” with, well… you know. It’s an inconsistent moving target too – compare with how East Asians were treated a century ago (with Chinese, even further back) with how they’re treated now.

    4. J Sterling

      No. The most important factor about immigration is who are we, and does immigration serve us all? IQ is irrelevant because it is not a measure of a person’s worth. Should we deport our own native fellow citizens, to wander stateless, if they lack a satisfactory IQ? Some liberals tell me they’d actually like that, the better to replace them with the “deserving”, yet another reason why I’m not a liberal.

      The case for immigration is felt the strongest by a comfortable minority who stand to benefit from the opportunity to pick and choose from among workers for the cheapest, and I’ve found they genuinely believe their fellow countrymen have no right to the wealth of their country. But however genuine their belief, it is wrong and immoral. Our people are our people, and no immigrant who does not benefit everyone, not just employers, should have leave to settle. The graphs above show the oft-asserted benefit of immigration just isn’t there in the data.

  8. Gary

    I’m highly skeptical. Three years of data seems way too short to measure such a complicated phenomenon like immigration. Massive immigration since the 19th century doesn’t seem to have hurt the U.S. much.

  9. Brandon

    I am not really sure what the analysis in this post is trying to prove. It would probably be more useful if it looked at migration and productivity.

  10. Noonan

    I can think of one case which suggests you don’t need immigration in order to have growth: Japan from 1945-1995.

      1. Patrick

        Economic migration is not uncommon in China. For example, the streets of Hong Kong are filled with Malaysian maids.

  11. Harry

    I think it obvious that immigration boosts growth in the recipient country. The question is does out raise per capita gdp, or even more so, does it raise domestic living standards.

    I doubt it does either

  12. Mel

    It’s tempting to see the causation going the other way; that economic shrinkage leads to people moving out, and growth and good times attract immigrants.
    I think this question is another of the kind where content matters. It’s important what the immigrants do. I think it’s clear that immigration boosted growh in 19th century North America, where immigrants turned the frontier over to what economics calls production. Solzhenitsyn’s The Red Wheel mentions Ukranian landlords bringing in settlers from East Prussia to introduce modern farming techniques.

  13. Lucy

    The analysis of the post is correct in that it compares the %immigrants 2012 and %Gnp 2015-2012, but It is wrong in that it leaves in the sample 2-3 anomalous observations which make the correlation index biased downward

  14. Vicente

    A correlation does not tell you anything unless you controlfor other factors that could cause growth. Think of factors that may correlate with immigration and may have had a negative effect on GDP growth. For example: wages (I do not want to say that this is the causal channel). An immigrant may move to an area with high wages. However, the countries with higher wages, the more developed countries, are not growing at 5%-10% but at a much lower rate. In fact, companies could be moving from these countries to other areas precisely because of those high wages which would reduce growth. Then you have that apparent negative effect could be due to another variable.

    Second, there is a sample selection bias -> years 2012-2015 are not the best historical phase precisely. My view is that no analysis that of less than 10 years says nothing about the pattern of relationship among variables.

    I would not draw any conclusion from this post

  15. Patrick

    This is interesting but I think you need more than a 3 year time span to make the argument. It is entirely plausible that increases in migration cause a short term shock followed by a long term boon. Plus a 3 year span will tend to be driven by individual business cycle variances. If you did a 10, 20, or even 50 year span, I think you’d be able to confirm or refute these objections.

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