Opening Up Immigration

Lots of talk today on the web about an open letter proposal from Matthew Yglesias. He writes:

I’ll believe that this is all about altruism when I see an open letter from economists demanding that we scrap the complicated H1B visa system and instead allow unrestricted immigration of foreign college professors.

Brad de Long and Greg Mankiw are happy to sign even if it might depress their own wages.

Here in Australia we have similar restrictions that create hurdles for hiring academics. Even getting a visa for a visit can be a struggle. So I will, of course, lend my support for a similar initiative here.

But let’s be clear about one thing: I cannot claim that this will be purely altruistic. If all countries adopt free migration for academics, there is every chance that my wages could rise rather than fall. Remember competition has two edges. I may face more competition from overseas academics for jobs in Australia but at the same time I will have more options competing for me. What happens to my pay as a result of this is unknown.

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