Economist Available to Discuss Merit Based Immigration System


Expert Pitch

New Brunswick, N.J. (May 17, 2019) – Rutgers scholar and economist Jennifer Hunt is available to comment on the latest developments concerning President Trump’s new immigration proposal.

At the heart of what President Trump is suggesting in the “Build America” Visa is a merit-based system, said Hunt, whose research focuses on immigration and wage inequality. She has analyzed the merit-based system and whether immigrants should be admitted to the United States based on merit.

Hunt, the James Cullen Chair in Economics and a professor of economics at Rutgers University–New Brunswick said, “All immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy and skilled immigrants in particular also contribute more in taxes than some other residents of the country do. They contribute by innovating, patenting and contributing to growth, but what’s less obvious is that medium- and even the least-skilled immigrants also contribute to U.S. economy. The best way to think about this is that when immigrants are different from native workers, they come in and they do things differently from natives and they allow everyone to specialize more in what they are doing best. That increases the efficiency of the economy, creates more output for everyone, increases GDP per capita for natives and benefits the immigrants as well. It’s that contribution of the unskilled immigrants that I think people overlook when they really push the merit-based system, or what in other countries is called the point system.

She also noted, “For example, what you find in Canada, at least in an analyses of data before recent reform in the Canadian system, is that although most of the people who are admitted are college graduates, they earn wages like high school grads in the labor market. And it’s been found that unlike in the U.S., Canadian immigrants actually don’t disproportionately innovate and patent. I think that’s because until this most recent reform, there was a lower role in employers choosing the immigrants to Canada. In the U.S., there is a very big role for employers that would be reduced by this proposal. It’s really the employers who know who are going to be the best workers.”

Jennifer Hunt can be reached at jennifer.hunt@rutgers.edu.

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