Want to boost the UK’s economy? Stop discriminating against immigrants.

By Jurin Katayama Flores

The number of immigrants in the UK have grown from 5.3 million people in 2004 to almost 9.5 million in 2019, making up an estimate of around 14% of the UK’s population. While many natives welcome their new neighbors with open arms, there is no denying that cases of discrimination still exist. Some people claim that immigrants steal jobs and exploit social welfare, generating a fiscal burden on the UK. Despite so, a 2014 study in the UK by Dustmann and Frattini actually shows that most immigrants are fiscal contributors, as they increase tax revenue for the government.

There is also evidence suggesting that immigrants bring long-run benefits, such as growth in innovation and trade. Hence, it is in the natives’ best interest to help immigrants to economically and culturally assimilate into the country, considering the long-run benefits associated with immigration.

Research by Dr David Escamilla-Guerrero (St Andrews), Dr Edward Kosack (Xavier University), and Dr Zachary Ward (Baylor University) suggests that ethnic discrimination can limit the economic progress and assimilation of immigrants. The initial income earned by average Mexican and Italian immigrants were the same, but lower than US-born whites because both groups were relatively low-skilled. However, Mexican migrants soon fell behind the Italians, as they experienced systematic labor market discrimination, expropriation of land and resources, mob violence, and a lack of government support. The difference in treatment between the two groups was also evident when Mexicans were faced with mass deportation during the Great Depression, while the Italians did not. As a result, the Mexican-specific structural barriers limited the opportunities for upward mobility, which may have also affected the fiscal contribution of Mexican migrants.

While the 2014 study of migration in the UK points to most immigrants being fiscal contributors today, the research by Dr Escamilla-Guerrero, Dr Kosack, and Dr Ward could suggest that eradicating discrimination would not only favor the assimilation of immigrants, but also propel the economic benefits entailed to migration. As migration will continue to exist in this ever-globalizing world, instead of imposing barriers, governments and societies of receiving countries should focus on promoting a more efficient assimilation for migrants.

About

Dr David Escamilla-Guerrero is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of St Andrews and teaches the Economics of Migration module in first semester jointly with Prof David A. Jaeger. He is also a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Economic and Social History. His research interests include economic history, labor economics, and development. He enjoys swimming and cooking in his spare time. To find out more about Dr Escamilla-Guerrero, click here.

Dr Edward Kosack is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Xavier University, Ohio. He is interested in historical migration from Mexico to the United States in the early 20th century and currently pursuing projects related to migration policies in the US. He enjoys exploring the craft brewery scene around Cincinnati. To find out more about Dr Edward Kosack, click here.

Dr Zachary Ward is an Assistant Professor at Baylor University, Texas. His research interests lie at the intersection between labor economics, migrant assimilation, and US economic history. He enjoys chasing his 1-year-old son around the house. To find out more about Dr Zachary Ward, click here.

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