Immigration and Wages

Ezra and Megan McCardle both make a good point about my post on immigrants and wages. Namely, that, while, yes, native-born Americans would happily pick fruit for $45 an hour, said wages would make strawberries prohibitively expensive. Before that day ever came to pass, we’d see either massive importation of strawberries or automation. That’s true, and the issue of the relationship between increased immigration and decreased wages for low-skilled workers is really, really complicated, with the data being far from clear.

My point was more about rhetoric. Namely that the same business conservatives who loves markets seem completely incapable of grasping a simple supply/demand model in setting the price of labor, at least when discussing the issue in public. At the same time, they’re working through the political system to keep supply high and costs low.

Then there’s the Dean Baker argument, which is that the strict limits on high-skilled immigration – from doctors, lawyers, and programmers—artificially keeps up high wages for the professional class, and increases the cost of vital services, like medical care, for the poor, working and middle classes.

Chris Hayes is the host of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.


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