Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
 
A New Thought on Immigration? A Lesson From the Drug War?
by Scotto

Remember the war on drugs? That was a good one, because we really kicked *** and now there are no drugs. But there are bigger problems facing us today, like terrorists and immigrants. I was reminded yesterday of all the people who kept trying to frame the drug issue in supply and demand terms. We were always fighting a supply-side battle -- burning crops, arresting users, that sort of thing. Now this approach has served us well enough against drugs, poverty and terrorism, but a recent study by Professor Robin Naylor of the University of Warwick in Coventry (UK), suggests an alternative.

Why do people enter this country illegally? My second-hand information is that it has a lot to do with America being the land of opportunity. Professor Naylor's research suggests that this image, while accurate in its way, is slightly out of date, in the sense of actually describing 19th Century America. Today, the statistics show the opposite to be true: your father's income[1] is about the biggest predictor of your own.[2] So if you show up on our doorstep today as a desperately poor migrant worker, the odds are that you will sire (or dam, iyptp) a long line of desperately poor workers of various kinds. Economic mobility, writes Naylor, is very limited,
with a particularly high likelihood [in the U.S.] that sons of the poorest fathers will remain in the lowest earnings quintile.
It's possible that this doesn't surprise you. But I'm not entirely kidding: what might happen if we embraced the truth about opportunity in America? Is it entirely unreasonable to wonder if it would make a difference? Or is the overall wealth gap so severe that being the poorest of American poor is still worth it?

[1]The study only looked at men. Sorry! Maybe we'll find out later that women are blessed with enormous economic opportunity in America.
[2]Assuming you're a son. See [1].
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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