(OPINION) The Surprising Way Restricting Immigration Can Turn Out to Hurt the Working Poor

Politicians around the world tout immigration restrictions as a way to fight wage stagnation and boost the job prospects of low-paid or unemployed locals.

The Trump administration pushed the message aggressively, at one stage calling a proposal to halve migration numbers the RAISE Act (standing for Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy), saying it would raise workers’ wages and help struggling families enter the middle class.

Whether or not cutting low-skilled migration would lift working class wages remains a highly contentious question.

My research examines the question in a broader way. Its findings – looking back at an extraordinary time of change in US history, from the 1880s on – suggest that while restricting immigration might at first help low-income workers, over time it hurts those local workers. This is due to what I call the “honeypot effect”, in which wage hikes for poor jobs keep people in poor jobs.

Dean Hoi, The Conversation, January 2, 2023
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