An Elusive Immigration Compromise

 Cotton-Perdue bill is written for the 35 percent of Americans who want less immigration, which it achieves by creating a points-based system for applications (with points for English proficiency, education, a good job offer, and so on), limiting family-based migration, and cutting the number of legal immigrants we take by roughly half.

.. The case for such cuts runs as follows. We are nearing our historical peak for the foreign-born share of the population, assimilation looks slower than for prior cohorts and may be stalling, growing diversity may be increasing social distrust, and our partisan landscape is increasingly shaped by ethnic patronage and white-identity politics. An immigration slowdown would make assimilation somewhat easier and give American politics time to adjust to the country’s transformation. It would also modestly curb the growth of inequality, reduce some strain on social programs, and offer a slight wage boost to less-educated natives, who are presently in dire socioeconomic straits.

.. Immigration may hurt the wages of high school dropouts, but it offers modest economic benefits to most natives, and obvious benefits to the immigrants themselves.

.. The future of immigration looks more Asian than Latin American. Conservative fears of a disappearing southern border or an ever-expanding Spanish-speaking underclass should be tempered somewhat by these shifts.

.. you can address many of the costs of mass immigration by embracing the new bill’s points system without also making its steep cuts.

.. a system that focused more on skills and education and job prospects would automatically put less pressure on wages at the bottom. It would increase immigration’s economic benefits, and reduce its fiscal costs. And it would presumably bring in a more diverse pool of migrants, making balkanization and self-segregation less likely.

.. mainstream liberalism has gone a little bit insane on immigration, digging into a position that any restrictions are ipso facto racist, and any policy that doesn’t take us closer to open borders is illegitimate and un-American.

.. Liberalism used to recognize the complexities of immigration; now it sees only a borderless utopia waiting, and miscreants and racists standing in the way.


As long as these problems persist — a right marred by bigotry, a liberalism maddened by utopianism — it is hard to imagine a reasonable deal.

But as long as a deal eludes us, the chaotic system we have is well designed to make both derangements that much more powerful, both problems that much worse.

How Canada became an education superpower

In the most recent round of international Pisa tests, Canada was one of a handful of countries to appear in the top 10 for maths, science and reading.

.. At university level, Canada has the world’s highest proportion of working-age adults who have been through higher education – 55% compared with an average in OECD countries of 35%.

.. Canada does not even really have a national education system, it is based on autonomous provinces and it is hard to think of a bigger contrast between a city state such as Singapore and a sprawling land mass such as Canada.

.. The OECD, trying to understand Canada’s success in education, described the role of the federal government as “limited and sometimes non-existent”.

Also not widely recognised is that Canada has a high level of migrants in its school population.

More than a third of young adults in Canada are from families where both parents are from another country.

.. Another distinguishing feature is that Canada’s teachers are well paid by international standards – and entry into teaching is highly selective.

.. Rather than a country of extremes, Canada’s results show a very high average, with relatively little difference between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

.. In the most recent Pisa results for science, the variation in scores in Canada caused by socio-economic differences was 9%, compared with 20% in France and 17% in Singapore.

The equitable outcome goes a long way to explaining why Canada is doing so well in international tests. It does not have a tail of underachievement, often related to poverty.

.. Migrants coming to Canada, many from countries such as China, India and Pakistan, are often relatively well-educated and ambitious to see their children get into professional careers.

Prof Jerrim says these families have an immigrant “hunger” to succeed, and their high expectations are likely to boost school results for their children.

.. The universities are reaping the benefits of the Trump effect, with record levels of applications from overseas students seeing Canada as a North American alternative to the United States.

Can Inequality Be Reduced?

What are the realistic options to tackle the scourge of crass inequality in rich welfare states?

Taxing the high-income earners

How about higher taxation, especially of incomes from capital? Globalization makes increased taxation of one of the most significant contributors to inequality — very difficult.

It may be conceivable only with a fully coordinated action from most advanced countries — but that does not seem even remotely possible today.

Two factors are at work here: First, the cross-country mobility of capital makes it very difficult to tax. Second, the countries that benefit from this regime have no incentive to help those who lose.

.. A stunning 66 out 100 of “most wanted” persons accused of economic crimes by the Chinese government are thought to hide in the United States and Canada. Likewise, London brokers are all too eager to accept Russian money, regardless of its origin.

.. Even high-income earners are becoming more difficult to tax. These individuals can easily move from one country to another. There are no obvious reasons why a top executive may not be able to do his job in low tax Singapore or Hong Kong — rather than in higher-tax London or New York.

.. Those who are not as mobile as the top earners perhaps feel that they are taxed enough. More likely, citizens have lost the trust that the government will use their moneys wisely. Skepticism about government probity and efficiency is much greater today than a half-century ago.

.. This means that the only promising avenue to reduce inequality is interventions that are undertaken before taxes and transfers kick in.

These include a reduction in the inequality of endowments, especially inequality in education and the ownership of assets.

Once such endowments are less unequally distributed, market incomes (i.e. incomes before taxes and transfers) will also be distributed much more equally than they are today.

A Conversation with Malcolm Gladwell: Revisiting Brown v. Board

No one is disputing that segregation was a heinous policy with far-reaching ramifications; the question is where do you locate the harm of segregation? And the court chose to locate the harm squarely inside the hearts and psyches of black children, whereas I would locate the harm in the world. I would say that the harm is located in the structure of laws and institutions that have the effect of systematically inhibiting and disempowering African Americans.

That may sound like a minor distinction. It is not. It’s a fundamental distinction. And particularly when you understand that it is the deliberate strategy of Southern whites to try and shift the racial conversation from institutions and political structures to hearts and minds. They’re trying to do that because they understand that if we can locate the argument entirely inside black people’s psyches, then we can leave institutional structures in place that systematically disenfranchise African Americans.

.. It’s because they’re locating the problem inside the hearts and minds of black kids that they can’t focus on teachers.*

..  it seems like they made a choice to pursue an argument that would convince the court. It didn’t seem obvious to me that they could have won making a structural argument, since that would involve taking power from people who would stand in their way.

.. Many African-American intellectuals have looked back on that and said, “You know what, we would’ve been better off if they had not overturned Plessy v. Ferguson,” and, “You want to play separate and equal? Let’s really do separate and equal,” and call them on their bluff. 

.. Like I said, many black intellectuals have subsequently said, “Look maybe what the court should’ve done in Brown in 1954 is say, ‘Alright, let’s actually do separate and equal—prove to me they’re equal before we go any further. Let’s start by equalizing funding. Let’s go down the list. If you want to have a separate law school for white people in the state of Texas then you have to prove to me that every element in the black law school is the equivalent of the white law school.’” That strikes me as being both a radical and a doable argument, at least in the short term. And then when you have equality—real equality—then you take the next step, and remove [segregation]. I’m not entirely convinced that would’ve been the right way to go—but I think that is an argument worth hearing.

..  I wouldn’t focus on the damage done to a person’s psyche, the way the Brown lawyers did for legal reasons, but rather on the burden of existing within a context that treats you as inferior. Other people’s beliefs, especially when they determine your outcomes, matter a great deal.

.. Maintaining separate school systems for blacks and whites in the south was very expensive, and they were able to maintain those systems only if they impoverished the black half. That’s what made it economically palatable to taxpayers in rural and urban southern school districts. They’re running two systems. It’s not cheap. And they get away with it by not giving any money to the black half. If you came along and said, “You have to fund the black half the same as you fund the white half,” you effectively force integration. But you force them to integrate themselves, as opposed to doing it from above

.. You’ve got to decide, what am I trying to do here? Am I trying to win a political battle, as expeditiously and expediently as possible, or am I trying to make a larger moral argument about race and society?

..  When they have a black teacher, black students are much less likely to be suspended and are more likely to get into the gifted program. But we don’t yet know what’s happening psychologically. Do the black teachers open doors, or do they motivate or inspire students?

..  In a sense, economists are much better suited for dealing with these big data sets. It’s incumbent on psychologists to figure out how to do that or collaborate with economists. But economists don’t necessarily care about the mechanisms, as long as there’s a difference. The problem then becomes, where’s that difference coming from? Is it about having someone that cares about you, regardless of race? Or is it about seeing someone like me in a position of authority, or seeing that person-like-me be successful?

.. The economists can look at the data set and describe the phenomenon with real precision. The psychologist can look at that same data and give us possible mechanisms—why is it happening? And then there is a role here for the sociologist, or even the anthropologist, to go in and, in a fine-grained way, to describe the experience of the participants.

.. there were enormous numbers of oral histories done over the last 30 to 40 years, and I drew on some of them. Interviews done in the 60s and 70s with black teachers, talking about the experience of being a teacher moving from an all-black school to a white school. That stuff—very anecdotal, very individual, placed alongside psychological accounts of mechanism and economic accounts of exactly what happened—that stuff is really powerful. Those three things in combination, I think, can tell you something really important.