The 10 blocks of immigration

Paul Collier has an excellent article in the New Statesman summarizing what should be the beginning point for any rational discussion on immigration. And you will note that NONE of the points of evidence are in harmony with the assumptions that are taken for granted by most pro-immigrationists, whereas many of them are in-line with anti-immigration policies.

Block 1 Around 40 per cent of the population of
poor countries say that they would emigrate if they could. There is
evidence that suggests this figure is not a wild exaggeration of how
people would behave. If migration happened on anything approaching this
scale, the host societies would suffer substantial reductions in living
standards. Hence, in attractive countries, immigration controls are

Block 2 Diasporas accelerate migration. By
“diasporas”, I mean those immigrants and their descendants who have
retained strong links with their home societies, rather than cutting
loose and integrating into their host societies. These links cut the
costs of migration and so fuel it. As a result, while diasporas are
growing, migration is accelerating. Diasporas continue to increase until
immigration is matched by the rate at which immigrants and their
offspring are absorbed into the general population. A crucial
implication of this interconnection is that the policies for migration
and diasporas must be compatible.

Block 3 Most immigrants prefer to retain their own
culture and hence to cluster together. This reduces the speed at which
diasporas are absorbed into the general population. The slower the rate
at which they are absorbed, the lower the rate of immigration that is
compatible with stable diasporas and migration. By design, absorption is
slower with multicultural policies than with assimilative policies.

Block 4 Migration from poor countries to rich ones
is driven by the wide gap in income between them. This gap is the moral
horror story of our times. The difference in incomes is ultimately due
to differences in political and social structures: poor countries have
political and social systems that are less functional than those in rich
ones. Their dysfunctional systems persist in part because they are
embedded in the identities and narratives of local cultures. Migrants
are escaping the consequences of their systems but usually bring their
culture with them.

Block 5 In economic terms, migrants are the
principal beneficiaries of migration but many suffer a wrenching
psychological shock. As far as can be judged from the net effect on
happiness, the economic gains and psychological costs broadly offset
each other, although the evidence on this is currently sketchy.

Block 6 Because migration is costly, migrants are
not among the poorest people in their home countries. The effect on
those left behind depends ultimately on whether emigrants speed
political and social change back home or slow it down. A modest rate of
emigration, as experienced by China and India, helps, especially if many
migrants return home. However, an exodus of the young and skilled – as
suffered by Haiti, for example – causes a haemorrhage that traps the
society in poverty.

Block 7 In high-income societies, the effect of
immigration on the average incomes of the indigenous population is
trivial. Economies are not damaged by immigration; nor do they need it.
The distributional effects can be more substantial but they depend on
the composition of immigration. In Australia, which permits only the immigration of the skilled, the
working classes probably gain from having more skilled people to work
with. In Europe, which attracts many low-skilled migrants, the
indigenous poor probably lose out through competition for social
housing, welfare, training and work. The clearest effect on the jobs
market is that new migrants compete with existing migrants, who would
consequently be substantial beneficiaries of tighter controls.

Block 8 The social effects of immigration outweigh
the economic, so they should be the main criteria for policy. These
effects come from diversity. Diversity increases variety and this
widening of choices and horizons is a social gain. Yet diversity also potentially jeopardises co-operation and
generosity. Co-operation rests on co-ordination games that support both
the provision of public goods and myriad socially enforced conventions.
Generosity rests on a widespread sense of mutual regard that supports
welfare systems. Both public goods and welfare systems benefit the
indigenous poor, which means they are the group most at risk of loss. As
diversity increases, the additional benefits of variety get smaller,
whereas the risks to co-operation and generosity get greater. Each host
society has an ideal level of diversity and hence an ideal size of

Block 9 The control of immigration is a human
right. The group instinct to defend territory is common throughout the
animal kingdom; it is likely to be even more fundamental than the
individual right to property. The right to control immigration is
asserted by all societies. You do not have the automatic right to move
to Kuwait; nor do the Chinese have the automatic right to move to
Angola, although millions would if they could. Nor do Bangladeshis have
the automatic right to move to Britain and claim a share of its social
and economic capital. It sometimes makes sense to grant the right to migrate on a
reciprocal basis. Thousands of French people want to live in Britain,
while thousands of Britons want to live in France. Yet if flows become
too unbalanced, rights derived from mutual advantage can be withdrawn:
Australia, for instance, withdrew them from Britain. The expansion of
the EU has created these unbalanced situations and the original
reciprocal right may therefore need modification.

Block 10 Migration is not an inevitable consequence
of globalisation. The vast expansion in trade and capital flows among
developed countries has coincided with a decline in migration between

Block 8 is partially incorrect, and even that quasi-error is mitigated by the fact that Collier points out that while the “widening of choices and horizons is a social gain”, diversity itself is not. Block 7, of course, is completely wrong, as evidenced by American post-1973 wage stagnation.

The biggest falsehood concerning immigration is that it is good for the economy. I’ll address this in a future post, but the TL;DR version can be understood by simply comparing GDP and immigration rates from 1900 to 2010.