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Jennifer Hunt: The Impact of Immigration on the Educational Attainment of Natives

In my latest column on Quartz, "Second Act: Obama Could Really Help the US Economy by Pushing for More Legal Immigration," I wrote:

Additional immigration may cause a problem for native-born Americans who don’t complete high school, but the kind of education reform that will help solve that problem is already one of the president’s strong suits and something strongly supported by Republicans.

Jennifer Hunt, in her recent NBER Working Paper “The Impact of Immigration on the Educational Attainment of Natives,” finds evidence that the impact of additional immigration on high school dropouts is mitigated by the fact that many of the native born come to realize they need more schooling to avoid being in competition with immigrants. Jennifer’s paper was considered of enough general interest that it was featured in the NBER Digest. Here is the NBER Digest’s summary of her paper:   

An increase of one percentage point in the share of immigrants aged 11-64 in the population increases the probability that natives aged 11-17 eventually complete 12 years of schooling by 0.3 percentage points.

In The Impact of Immigration on the Educational Attainment of Natives (NBER Working Paper No. 18047), Jennifer Hunt finds that, contrary to the popular notion that immigrants may have a negative impact on the public education experience of native-born children, the net effect of immigrant children in schools is positive. Using the 1940-2000 censuses and the pooled 2008-2010 American Community Surveys, Hunt focuses on the impact of immigration on the probability of natives’ completion of 12 years of schooling. She finds that an increase of one percentage point in the share of immigrants aged 11-64 in the population increases the probability that natives aged 11-17 eventually complete 12 years of schooling by 0.3 percentage points.

There are at least two ways in which immigration could affect schooling outcomes for natives. Immigrant children could compete for schooling resources with native children, lowering the return to native education and discouraging native high school completion. Conversely, native children might be encouraged to complete high school in order to avoid competing with immigrant high-school dropouts in the labor market. Hunt finds evidence that both channels are operative and that the net effect is positive, particularly for native-born blacks, but not for native-born Hispanics.

Compared to natives, immigrants to the United States are much more likely to be poorly educated, and also more likely to be highly educated. Immigrants are underrepresented among workers with an intermediate level of education, such as a high school diploma.  —Matt Nesvisky

The Digest is not copyrighted and may be reproduced freely with appropriate attribution of source.

The one finding that is worrisome is the less positive effect on education for the native-born Hispanics, who are most similar to the bulk of the immigrants. This suggests that it might be wise for a policy increasing legal immigration to aim for increased immigration from a wide range of different countries. This would be consistent with having a large number of legal immigration slots for those coming from Latin American countries, if most of those slots were reserved for those who already have a strong connection to the United States—for example, by having resided here for a long time. 

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  1. supplysideliberal posted this