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32 Cato J. 25 (2012)
Immigration and Economic Growth

handle is hein.journals/catoj32 and id is 27 raw text is: IMMIGRATION AND ECONOMIC GROWTH
Gordon H. Hanson
As the 2012 presidential campaign gets under way, there will be
intense public debate about the direction of economic policy. The
continuing torpor of the U.S. economy and mounting government
debt oblige candidates to detail how they would improve prospects
for economic growth and reduce the federal budget deficit. We are
sure to hear a great deal about plans to lower taxes, reduce govern-
ment regulation, improve U.S. education, and rebuild infrastructure.
But it is a near certainty that no candidate will make immigration part
of his or her vision for achieving higher rates of long-run economic
growth. To be sure, stump speeches will contain pat pronounce-
ments about securing American borders, restoring the rule of law, or
bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, depending
on the candidate's political orientation. Yet, it is a safe bet that after
getting through these bullet points candidates will seek to change the
subject. Immigration is a divisive issue that most national politicians
prefer to avoid. President Obama checked his immigration box by
making a halfhearted call for immigration reform in May 2011. That
proposal was quickly buried under many more pressing items in his
legislative outbox.
Ignoring immigration may make short-run political sense but it is
a mistake if the goal is to build a coherent economic strategy.
Immigration policy affects the pace of innovation in the U.S. econ-
omy, the supply of labor by high-skilled workers, the ability of
regional economies to adjust to business cycle fluctuations, and the
CatoJaunal, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Winter 2012). Copyright © Cato Institute. All rights
Gordon H. Hanson is Professor of Economics at the University of California San
Diego and Director of the Center on Emerging and Pacific Economies.


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