Heaven's Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy / Edition 1

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Overview

The U.S. took in more than a million immigrants per year in the late 1990s, more than at any other time in history. For humanitarian and many other reasons, this may be good news. But as George Borjas shows in Heaven's Door, it's decidedly mixed news for the American economy--and positively bad news for the country's poorest citizens. Widely regarded as the country's leading immigration economist, Borjas presents the most comprehensive, accessible, and up-to-date account yet of the economic impact of recent immigration on America. He reveals that the benefits of immigration have been greatly exaggerated and that, if we allow immigration to continue unabated and unmodified, we are supporting an astonishing transfer of wealth from the poorest people in the country, who are disproportionately minorities, to the richest.

In the course of the book, Borjas carefully analyzes immigrants' skills, national origins, welfare use, economic mobility, and impact on the labor market, and he makes groundbreaking use of new data to trace current trends in ethnic segregation. He also evaluates the implications of the evidence for the type of immigration policy the that U.S. should pursue. Some of his findings are dramatic:

Despite estimates that range into hundreds of billions of dollars, net annual gains from immigration are only about $8 billion.

In dragging down wages, immigration currently shifts about $160 billion per year from workers to employers and users of immigrants' services.

Immigrants today are less skilled than their predecessors, more likely to re-quire public assistance, and far more likely to have children who remain in poor, segregated communities.

Borjas considers the moral arguments against restricting immigration and writes eloquently about his own past as an immigrant from Cuba. But he concludes that in the current economic climate--which is less conducive to mass immigration of unskilled labor than past eras--it would be fair and wise to return immigration to the levels of the 1970s (roughly 500,000 per year) and institute policies to favor more skilled immigrants.

An economic analysis of the effects of the most recent wave of immigrants to the U.S. reveals mixed results for the nation as whole, and very bad news for the underclass, in a ground-breaking study.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
For an impressively researched, brightly written and tightly argued polemic against America's current liberal immigration policy, look at Heaven's Door.
— Sylvia Nasar
Foreign Affairs
A former Cuban refugee, Borjas addresses vexing questions in the U.S. immigration debate, offering an up-to-date and informative assessment of the modern immigrant experience and an excellent review of the recent academic research.
Harvard Magazine
Borjas is a remarkably clear guide to the issues. . . . Borjas, one is convinced, is acting from concern for the public good as his research has revealed it to him.
— Nathan Glazer
Choice
Will probably become the most influential, widely read study of the subject.
Political Science Quarterly
I highly recommend this book. It is written in a very accessible style; the arguments are easy to follow by nonexperts. . . . For those who might want to consider some important facts that bear on the future of immigration to the United States, though, I would urge them to read this book.
— Jim Gimpel
Times Literary Supplement
A thoughtful, sophisticated and richly informative book that merits close attention.
— Stephan Thernstrom
Journal of International Migration and Integration
A lively and penetrating investigation of the economic dimension of immigration in the US . . . Borjas is an acknowledged master of inventive economic reasoning and theory, and he makes impressively extensive use of census and other data on immigrants. He, more than anyone, has brought the theoretical and methodological apparatus of contemporary economics to bear on immigration, and his contribution to the growth of the field has been considerable.
— Jeffrey G. Reitz
New York Review of Books
Heaven's Door is by far the best introduction I have seen to the economics of immigration.
The Washington Post
[A] tour de force on the economics of immigration. In the policy area where emotion or ideology usually overwhelms analysis, this is a stunning piece of research—nuanced, lucid and forceful. . . . This is an enormously impressive book.
— Peter Skerry
The Washington Post - Peter Skerry
[A] tour de force on the economics of immigration. In the policy area where emotion or ideology usually overwhelms analysis, this is a stunning piece of research—nuanced, lucid and forceful. . . . This is an enormously impressive book.
New York Times - Sylvia Nasar
For an impressively researched, brightly written and tightly argued polemic against America's current liberal immigration policy, look at Heaven's Door.
Harvard Magazine - Nathan Glazer
Borjas is a remarkably clear guide to the issues. . . . Borjas, one is convinced, is acting from concern for the public good as his research has revealed it to him.
Political Science Quarterly - Jim Gimpel
I highly recommend this book. It is written in a very accessible style; the arguments are easy to follow by nonexperts. . . . For those who might want to consider some important facts that bear on the future of immigration to the United States, though, I would urge them to read this book.
Times Literary Supplement - Stephan Thernstrom
A thoughtful, sophisticated and richly informative book that merits close attention.
Journal of International Migration and Integration - Jeffrey G. Reitz
A lively and penetrating investigation of the economic dimension of immigration in the US . . . Borjas is an acknowledged master of inventive economic reasoning and theory, and he makes impressively extensive use of census and other data on immigrants. He, more than anyone, has brought the theoretical and methodological apparatus of contemporary economics to bear on immigration, and his contribution to the growth of the field has been considerable.
From the Publisher

Honorable Mention for the 1999 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Government and Political Science, Association of American Publishers

"[A] tour de force on the economics of immigration. In the policy area where emotion or ideology usually overwhelms analysis, this is a stunning piece of research--nuanced, lucid and forceful. . . . This is an enormously impressive book."--Peter Skerry, The Washington Post

"For an impressively researched, brightly written and tightly argued polemic against America's current liberal immigration policy, look at Heaven's Door."--Sylvia Nasar, New York Times

"A former Cuban refugee, Borjas addresses vexing questions in the U.S. immigration debate, offering an up-to-date and informative assessment of the modern immigrant experience and an excellent review of the recent academic research."--Foreign Affairs

"Borjas is the leading American economist conducting research and writing about immigration policy. A mervelous read. . . ."--Library Journal

"Borjas is a remarkably clear guide to the issues. . . . Borjas, one is convinced, is acting from concern for the public good as his research has revealed it to him."--Nathan Glazer, Harvard Magazine

"Will probably become the most influential, widely read study of the subject."--Choice

"I highly recommend this book. It is written in a very accessible style; the arguments are easy to follow by nonexperts. . . . For those who might want to consider some important facts that bear on the future of immigration to the United States, though, I would urge them to read this book."--Jim Gimpel, Political Science Quarterly

"A thoughtful, sophisticated and richly informative book that merits close attention."--Stephan Thernstrom, Times Literary Supplement

"A lively and penetrating investigation of the economic dimension of immigration in the US . . . Borjas is an acknowledged master of inventive economic reasoning and theory, and he makes impressively extensive use of census and other data on immigrants. He, more than anyone, has brought the theoretical and methodological apparatus of contemporary economics to bear on immigration, and his contribution to the growth of the field has been considerable."--Jeffrey G. Reitz, Journal of International Migration and Integration
"Heaven's Door is by far the best introduction I have seen to the economics of immigration."--New York Review of Books

Peter Skerry
But if immigration doesn't much affect the size of the national economic pie, it does affect how it is cut up. Borjas demonstrates that immigration generates enormous wealth for employers and the highly skilled at the expense of unskilled and disadvantaged natives. Specifically, he estimates that "almost half of the decline in the relative wage of high school dropouts may be attributed to immigration." Black Americans in particular are big losers, with immigration reducing the income of the average native black person about $300 per year. Borjas's policy proposals follow from this analysis. He argues against the present system of awarding visas overwhelmingly on the basis of ties to family members already here and for a new system based on immigrant skills. He also argues for a reduction in overall numbers, to around 500,000 legal immigrants annually. Yet in addition to these, he favors generous refugee admissions.
Washington Post
Cynthia G. Wagner
Recognizing that immigration is an emotional and moral issue as well as an economic one in the United States, Borjas recommends a point system, similar to Canada's, for helping decide who should receive visas. The point system attempts to match skills with labor-market needs; it also emphasizes such characteristics as age, education, and experience. English proficiency might be another point-winning skill for U.S. immigrants. The bottom line, Borjas says, is that an immigration policy must be formed, or else interest groups in the near future may succeed in closing the borders altogether.
Futurist
Irwin M. Stelzer
At last, the emotional subject of immigration has been addressed by a scholar who does four things right: he asks the appropriate questions; he is scrupulous in his use of complicated data on immigrants' performance and behavior; he carefully considers opposing interpretations of those data; and he sets out policy proposals that constitute the basis around which future debates should resolve. —Commentary
Library Journal
Borjas is the leading American economist conducting research and writing about immigration policy today. A Cuban refugee who greatly benefited from the political privileges and economic opportunities associated with living in the United States, he provides a comprehensive account of the economic impact of immigration on this country. In framing his argument that U.S. immigration policy needs to be changed, he considers the skills of the immigrants, their national origin, the impact on the labor market, the costs and benefits associated with immigration, welfare use, economic mobility, ethnic segregation, and the need for cultural and economic assimilation. He highlights his discussion by pointing out that the key issues to be addressed are how many immigrants should be admitted to the United States each year and what skills they should have. A marvelous read that should be useful in both academic and public libraries.--Norman B. Hutcherson, Kern Cty. Lib., Bakersfield, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Irwin M. Stelzer
At last, the emotional subject of immigration has been addressed by a scholar who does four things right: he asks the appropriate questions; he is scrupulous in his use of complicated data on immigrants' performance and behavior; he carefully considers opposing interpretations of those data; and he sets out policy proposals that constitute the basis around which future debates should resolve.
Commentary
Lamar Smith
Heaven's Door breaks important new ground...No one interested in the consequences of American immigration policy, present or proposed, should be without a well-worn copy.
Stephan Thernstrom
Heaven's Door is a thoughtful, sophisticated and richly informative book that merits close attention.
Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691088969
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/26/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 971,592
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents


PREFACE xi
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xv
CHAPTER 1: Reframing the Immigration Debate 3
CHAPTER 2: The Skills of Immigrants 19
CHAPTER 3: National Origin 39
CHAPTER 4: The Labor Market Impact of Immigration 62
CHAPTER 5: The Economic Benefits from Immigration 87
CHAPTER 6: Immigration and the Welfare State 105
CHAPTER 7: Social Mobility across Generations 127
CHAPTER 8: Ethnic Capital 146
CHAPTER 9: Ethnic Ghettos 161
CHAPTER 10: The Goals of Immigration Policy 174
CHAPTER 11: A Proposal for an Immigration Policy 189
CHAPTER 12: Conclusion 211
NOTES 213
INDEX 257
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