Friday, November 14, 2014

The fraction of the population that is foreign born is economically irellevant

When discussing the impact of a government’s cheap-labor immigration policy, pundits often talk about the fraction of the population that is foreign born, and when calculating the impact on wages they only count the immigrants themselves.  This is rubbish.

What counts is not the fraction of the population that is foreign born.  What counts is the total increase in the population that is caused by a specific immigration policy.

Suppose a young couple immigrate from some overpopulated third-world country.  Because it is poverty that drives people to immigrate, and because rapid population growth is the single greatest cause of poverty, the age distribution in immigrants tends to be low.  So this couple will likely be in or about to enter their childbearing years.

Suppose they have two children.  Now the total increase in the population due to their immigrating is four.  Now suppose that each of their children has two grandchildren.  That’s four, but it is shared with two other people, so the increase is only another two – the total increase due to the original two immigrants is now six.  Now the grandchildren have children – eight in total, but shared with other people, we should only count two, but the original immigrants have passed on, minus two, and the total increase in the population due to the original two immigrants is stable at six.  Even though the fraction of foreign born is zero, the net increase remains, and in this example it is three times the number of the original immigrants.

When you import third-world refugees, the number of immigrants is just a down payment on a much larger increase in population down the road.  This happens even if they average two children per family, because of demographic momentum.  Of course, if their fertility rates are higher than two this multiplier factor can be much larger.  Assume that the first generation has four kids, the second has three kids, and all succeeding generations have two.  In this case the multiplier factor would be nine.

Granted these are simple examples.  In the case where we had two people each with two children, if they entered the country with their children already born and the children are counted in the totals, then the multiplier factor is only 1.5.  On the other hand, if there are so many immigrants so quickly that they fail to assimilate and their fertility rate does not drop down to replacement, then the sky is the limit.

Nevertheless, even if we cannot predict the total numbers with certainty, if Obama imports tens of millions of people in the next two years (which is quite plausible when you count illegals and all the different expanded legal sources) this could end up being hundreds of millions, easily.  Hello Bangladesh.

Now consider California.  The fraction of the population that is foreign born is only about 25%, but post-1970 cheap-labor immigration policy is responsible for 50% of the current population.  In other words, without post-1970 immigration there would be about 20 million people in California, but instead there are about 40 million people.  When you consider the impact on wages, traffic, water, etc., it is the total increase that counts.

Suppose you are an ecologist, and you want to study the impact of a new species of plant being introduced to an ecosystem.  Originally there was one plant, but it has spread and multiplied and now there are 1000 plants of that species.  Do you only calculate the environmental impact of that one original plant?  Or of all of it’s progeny?  Obviously, the latter.

Now those economists who have ‘proven’ that massive increases in population cannot cause living conditions to fall are of course whores, and they are lying on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start.  They would doubtless be happy to prove that the sun rises in the west if you paid them enough.  Anyhow, consider only California and water.  Now California is a desert with erratic rainfall.  Originally the occasional dry year kept the population low.  Building dams and pumps for aquifers allowed Californians to average things out, and is what allowed the population of California to grow.  However, now the population is so large that this is not working.  There is no long term dry trend in California’s weather, it is exactly as it has always been (“Causes of the extreme dry conditions over California during early 2013”, by Hailan Wang and Siegfried Schubert, special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Vol. 95, No. 9, September 2014).  It’s just that demand for water has increased enough that people can no longer store enough water in the wet years to tide them over the dry ones.  There would be no ‘drought’ in California if there were still just 20 million people living there.

Now consider the economic impact on the average worker.  Let’s temporarily ignore the impact on wages, traffic, rents, etc., and just look at water.  Post 1970 immigration has doubled California’s population.  This will be true even if immigration is stopped and the population stabilizes and the percentage of the population that is foreign born drops to zero.  The average person will have to pay much more for water, and use less of it, and spend a lot on more expensive water-conserving appliances.  And they will also have to pay more for food, as the effect of more expensive water ripples through the rest of the economy.  And this price will have to be paid basically forever, year after year, generation after generation, long after the last foreign-born immigrant has passed away.  Just considering water, the total cost to the average Californian will be colossal.  Surely this should be considered in any economic analysis of the effects of immigration?

But of course those wealthy oligarchs who are responsible for jamming so many people into California won’t have to do without – with all that cheap labor, and being able to charge high rents, they will make piles of money, and take hour long showers and swim in their own private heated Olympic swimming pools.  So that’s all right then.  If the little people are running out of water it’s because they are lazy.  If only they would work harder and all become billionaires they could all have plenty of water.  Yeah, sure.

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