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Trump’s Foreign Admirers

CAMBRIDGE – Donald Trump doesn’t like Latin Americans and advocates building a wall to separate them from the United States. As usual with such snubs, Latin Americans tend to reciprocate the sentiment, as do Muslims and others who feel affronted by the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. But many of those who dislike Trump share his passion for restrictive immigration policies.

There are probably few areas of public policy where something that is so good for society is portrayed as being so bad. Of course, projecting a society’s problems onto foreign scapegoats is an old political tactic. But the extent to which hostility to immigration goes against the evidence of its salutary effects is surprising.

Recent research on immigration shows very large positive effects on the welfare of locals. Bill and Sari Kerr have shown that, while immigrants represent about 13% of the US population, they account for 26% of all entrepreneurs, and about 36% of new firms have at least one immigrant in the leadership team. This suggests that immigration is a large part of the story behind American economic vitality and job creation.

This is not a uniquely American phenomenon. On the contrary, it’s pretty universal. In Chile, immigrants from non-neighboring countries are four times more likely to be entrepreneurs than natives. In Venezuela, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese immigrants, who moved there mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, and whose level of formal schooling was lower than that of the natives, were ten times more likely to be entrepreneurs. Today, Albanians returning to their country from Greece after the 2010 crisis there became entrepreneurs and increased the employment and wages of those who never left, as shown by Harvard’s Ljubica Nedelkoska.