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Inconvenient Truths About Migration

Standard economic theory says that net inward migration, like free trade, benefits the native population after a lag. But recent research has poked large holes in that argument, while the social and political consequences of open national borders similarly suggest the appropriateness of immigration limits.

LONDON – Sociology, anthropology, and history have been making large inroads into the debate on immigration. It seems that Homo economicus, who lives for bread alone, has given way to someone for whom a sense of belonging is at least as important as eating.

This makes one doubt that hostility to mass immigration is simply a protest against job losses, depressed wages, and growing inequality. Economics has certainly played a part in the upsurge of identity politics, but the crisis of identity will not be expunged by economic reforms alone. Economic welfare is not the same as social wellbeing.

Let’s start, though, with the economics, using the United Kingdom – now heading out of the EU – as a case in point. Between 1991 and 2013 there was a net inflow of 4.9 million foreign-born migrants into Britain.

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