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Robert gordon has an interesting (and admittedly pessimistic) paper about the prospects of U.S. economic growth. On the subject of immigration he writes: "It is headwind (1), the demographic turnaround, that seems on the surface to be the most inevitable but is could potentially be counteracted. The retirement of the baby boomers causes hours per capita to decline and thus reduces growth of income per capita relative to productivity. A method to raise hours per capita is to increase the ratio of those of working age to those of retirement age. As a matter of arithmetic, this could be achieved by a more rapid inflow of immigration. One potential option would be unlimited immigration of high-skilled workers. As Steve Jobs is reported to have told Barack Obama shortly before he died, “we should staple a green card to the diploma of every foreign worker who attains a graduate degree in science or engineering.” For decades Canada has encouraged the immigration not only of skilled applicants but also those who are already rich and by so doing has transformed its culture from British colonial blandness to international world-class diversity. Much more controversial is the question of unskilled immigration, which suggests a provocative question. Why was unlimited immigration into the U.S. so successful throughout the 19th century, until it was stopped by restrictive legislation in the 1920s, yet could not be considered as a plausible public policy today? Unlimited immigration before 1913 did not cause mass unemployment. Immigrants were extremely well informed about the availability of employment in the U.S. economy. They arrived when the economy was strong and postponed their arrival (or returned to their home countries) when the economy was weak"
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Nov 15, 2012