Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Immigration and Inequality

David Card, perhaps the preeminent practicing academic economist holding a Canadian passport, was here today to give the annual McKenzie lecture, titled, well, "Immigration and Inequality". Fairly interesting. Basically, it argues that high school dropouts and high school grads with no postsecondary are perfect substitutes to employers, and grouping these categories together makes the education profile of immigrants match up with the education profile of Americans. So you do some econometrics and as that hypothesis suggests, American wage inequality is basically unchanged relative to the counterfactual of no immigration. Ungated working paper here.

However, as the guy sitting to my right with a zillion AERs kept gossiping to me about during the speech, the identification strategy wasn't being bought into all that much. Basically, it revolved around using the past history of immigrants to migrate to ethnic enclaves to IV for the supplies of different skill levels of labour with wages on the left hand side, since presumably immigration responds to economic opportunity, i.e. wages.

Anyway, it was nice to get to a seminar. Hausman gave a talk last Friday that I slipped into as well, extremely authoritative in front of an audience. I hear he's vicious from the audience. Next year should bring a lot more of these things, I'll probably be at all the macro bits. I'll talk about courses for next fall post-exams, which start Monday and end the next Monday.

POSTSCRIPT: No disrespect to David Card, but the most memorable part of the presentation was watching two 20-something graduate students muck with the control panel for the lights unsuccessfully, prompting 90-year-old Lionel McKenzie to come down to the floor and set the lights perfectly in approximately two seconds. Pretty good.

1 comment:

Phillip Huggan said...

My resume I used to apply for mostly unskilled positions always stated completed Grade 12. Implied was that I had graduated HS. I doubt anyone bothered to check.
Incidentally, after a term at the only +$10/hr employer I've had, instead of collecting EI I decided to do some casual labour. After that, I became basically ineligible for welfare (go to Labour Ready) and employers wouldn't hire someone with a history of casual labour (go to Labour Ready), as confirmed by a friend of a friend in charge of hiring.
What I'm saying is, don't bring immigrants in unless you make them aware if they start working a deadend job, they will be doing it for the rest of their lives. It is fine for low-income immigrants from distressed situations, but if a Doctor in India quits there to be a casual labourer here, you have ruined his life if you don't explain the reality of "dead-end jobs" and lack of welfare benefits for physcially fit men. Probably this should be explained to domestic high school students who idealistically don't want to collect EI, and instead mistakenly work.