China’s demographic crisis

Foreign Affairs has an article, China’s doomed fight against demographic decline:

The median age of a Chinese citizen has increased significantly since 1978, reaching 38.4 years in 2021. If the country’s fertility rates continue to decline, the median age of a person could reach over 50 by 2050.

In 2016, China’s government scrapped its one-child policy. In 2021, it began implementing policies aimed at increasing childbearing. However, these efforts are unlikely to help raise the country’s fertility rates. The ruling Communist Party’s re-embrace of gender norms is also expected to contribute to the country’s declining birth rates.

In the 1970s, China launched a population planning program aimed at discouraging couples from having more children. The number of births per woman dropped dramatically from 5.8 to 2.7 in 1978. The program’s targets encouraged authorities to adopt policies that could lead to forced abortions and sterilizations. Fines for violating the program were typically several years’ worth of salary for the average citizen.

By 2000, Chinese academics had begun to voice concerns about the long-term demographic consequences of these policies, including significant imbalances in male-female sex ratios at birth—the result of sex-selective abortions. Officials initially assumed that merely rolling back long-standing state restrictions would boost birth rates. In 2013, Beijing announced that couples would be allowed to have two children if one parent was an only child. In 2016, the one-child policy was formally scrapped in favor of a two-child policy; in 2021, it became a three-child policy.

As the results of the 2020 census trickled out last year, Beijing went into overdrive. In the summer of 2021, the Politburo adopted the three-child policy and rolled out a comprehensive pro-natalist strategy aimed at removing financial and practical barriers deterring couples from having children.

What immigration adds to the labor force

A number of people have been estimating shortfall in our labor force due to the decline in immigration due to Trump and the pandemic from a prevailing level of about one million persons a year. The following passage (from here) estimates that the prevailing rate of 18 to 65 year old immigrants was about 660,000. At a labor force participation rate of 80% for this age cohort, that means that a half million persons were added to our workforce by immigrants every year. The passage below estimate a total shortfall due to immigration downturn of 2 million.

This is most acutely experienced in food and hospitality jobs, which today have an unfilled job rate of 13-15%, and in which 25% of the labor has been foreign born.

Trump and other Republicans sought to reduce immigration by about 40%. Call that a reduction in annual foreign-born labor force addition of say 200,000 from the 500,000 prevailing annual addition. Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would in effect increase the labor force addition by roughly 200,000, to 700,000. The prevailing increase of the labor force by U.S. born persons is around zero.

The passage from Econofact is here:

This decline in immigrant and nonimmigrant visa arrivals resulted in zero growth in working-age foreign-born people in the United States. Prior to 2019, the foreign born population of working age (18 to 65) grew by about 660,000 people per year, as reported in data from the monthly Current Population survey (see the first chart). This trend came to a stop already in 2019 before the pandemic, due to a combination of stricter immigration enforcement and a drop in the inflow of Mexican immigrants. The halt to international travel in 2020 added a significant drop in the working-age immigrant population. As of the end of 2021, the number of working-age foreign-born people in the United States is still somewhat smaller than it was in early 2019. and, relative to the level it would have achieved if the 2010-2019 trend had continued, there is a shortfall of about 2 million people. A similar calculation done using Current Population Survey (CPS) monthly data on foreign-born individuals with a college degree indicates that of the missing two million foreign workers, about 950,000 would have been college educated, had the pre-2020 trend continued. This is a very substantial loss of skilled workers, equal to 1.8 percent of all college-educated individuals working in the US in 2019.

Why democracies fail

The Washington Post notes Yascha Mounk’s latest book, The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure. “We all know the reasons. Ethnic hatreds come easy. When scapegoating demagogues stoke them during hard times, they make the classic promise: Break the democracy pact, and people like you can be great again.”

What happens if you believe, as Vice President Mike Pence told the Republican National Convention in 2020, that “the choice in this election is whether America remains America”? And what happens when your version of America loses?

Immigration is at the core of this distress. The shock that 50 million people for whom English is not the dominant language at home. The shock that Nigeria is the source of the highest educated immigrant group.  The shock that immigrants  due to citizenship have become voting eligible

Mounk tries to rewrite the basic pro-immigrant slogan: “He asks us to abandon the tired slogans, the “melting pot” and the “salad bowl,” in favor of the “public park” metaphor: “A public park is open to everyone.” “A public park gives its visitors options.” “A public park creates a vibrant space for encounter.” “

(Stephen Douglass in 1869 had coined the term “composite nationality.“)

A copy of the book’s introduction is here.

From the summary on Amazon:

Some democracies are highly homogeneous. Others have long maintained a brutal racial or religious hierarchy, with some groups dominating and exploiting others. Never in history has a democracy succeeded in being both diverse and equal, treating members of many different ethnic or religious groups fairly. And yet achieving that goal is now central to the democratic project in countries around the world. It is, Yascha Mounk argues, the greatest experiment of our time.

Drawing on history, social psychology, and comparative politics, Mounk examines how diverse societies have long suffered from the ills of domination, fragmentation, or structured anarchy. So it is hardly surprising that most people are now deeply pessimistic that different groups might be able to integrate in harmony, celebrating their differences without essentializing them. But Mounk shows us that the past can offer crucial insights for how to do better in the future. There is real reason for hope.

It is up to us and the institutions we build whether different groups will come to see each other as enemies or friends, as strangers or compatriots. To make diverse democracies endure, and even thrive, we need to create a world in which our ascriptive identities come to matter less—not because we ignore the injustices that still characterize the United States and so many other countries around the world, but because we have succeeded in addressing them.

What is going on at the Mexican border?


The Washington Post categorizes who is showing up at the Mexican border. An unduplicated count might be running at a monthly rate of 150,000 + a month,

Ukrainians: “About 15,000 Ukrainians escaping war have come to Mexico to be allowed across the border, and they are largely being welcomed and given one-year humanitarian parole in the United States.” This channel will be cut off when the United for Ukraine program is introduced (go here.)

People who cross and are not caught: say, 45,000 a month. “Border officials have acknowledged that anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 of these border crossings a day are detected but not intercepted.” It seems highly unlikely that the Texas National Guard presence at the border –personnel with zero interdiction training or technology – have any role in containing this flow.

These are likely many single males responding to labor demand in the U.S. The nominal wage gain may be 400%, but after adjusting for cost of living, the wage gain will be far less. (Go here and here).

People who are apprehended and turned back, say, an unduplicated count of 50,000 a month. “Apprehensions” measures how many times the government encounters someone at the border who doesn’t have legal authorization to enter the country. there are very many repeaters. Most people apprehended at the border have been turned away, under the Title 42 public health code that Biden is ending soon: In the past six months, the government has apprehended, and then removed, people at the border some 549,000 times. For a history of the use of Title 42, go here.

People who are apprehended and then mostly processed as asylum applicants: say, 75,000 a month. “These are people who cross the border, get processed by immigration officials and who are let go to various ends, like applying for asylum. Over the past six months, about 500,000 people were taken into custody but not immediately expelled. Some were deported, but most remain in the United States pending a court hearing. It can take years for their asylum cases to resolve, and many people just end up staying in the country, under the radar.


Motivations for migration from Central America

A 2021 survey of thousands of migrant-sending households in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras looked that the interest in emigrating. In 2021, 43% wanted to emigrate; 3% actually made concrete plans to migrate. Family separation and high costs associated with migrating were cited as deterrents.

55% of migrants were said to have hired a smuggler at an average cost of US $7,500 per person, while migrating through legal channels came at a cost of U$4,500. For 89% of people, the United States was their intended destination country.

Food insecurity has seen a dramatic rise in Central America as the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty continue to make it harder for families to feed themselves. As of October 2021, the number of food-insecure people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras grew three-fold to 6.4 million, from 2.2 million people in 2019.

Migration flows have been driven by violence and insecurity, as well as climate-related shocks such as severe droughts in the Central American Dry Corridor and more frequent and stronger storms in the Atlantic. The devastating twin hurricanes that hit Central America in November 2020 contributed to the deterioration of living conditions for populations that were already vulnerable.

The Organization of American States said “the study presents evidence that migration in most cases is a survival mechanism and not the voluntary exercise of a right. The causes of migration are poverty, inequality, unemployment, food insecurity, violence, the impact of natural disasters and climate change: these require to be addressed in a decisive and comprehensive manner by States.”

The study is a joint effort by the Migration Policy Institute , the United Nations World Food Programme and the Civic Data Design Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization of American States.

Humanitarian parole for Ukraine refugees

Per the Niskanen Center, the Biden administration implemented today (4/21/22) United For Ukraine, an innovative approach to rapid refugee intake – authorizing households to directly accept Ukrainian refugees, bypassing the conventional channel of central intake and then assignment to one of the many resettlement organizations in the United States. In effect it is a private sponsor-based program, though it might not be formally stated as such.

This is a potentially explosive change in refugee acceptance. Enormous pressure will be put on Washington to expand a privatized refugee system to many comers. For instance, there are today in the United States about 5,000 Banyamulenges from the Democratic Republic of Congo. These people are under threat of genocide. We can expect that many of these people here will privately sponsor their relatives and others for refugee status.

This scenario can apply to any population experiencing refugee characteristics and linked to a population in the United States ready to sponsor. A refugee is one who has suffered “persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Go here for an overview of the sources of refugees.

Per the Center, Humanitarian parole is part of the U.S. policy toolkit long used to address emergency situations. Parole gives the administration the authority to admit any individual for a temporary period — up to 2 years — if their admission provides significant public benefit or satisfies an urgent humanitarian need. Beneficiaries of the Ukraine program will be welcomed by a supporter who will help facilitate their transition in the U.S. By tapping fiscal sponsorship as a formal pathway for displaced Ukrainians, the U.S. can welcome refugees into the U.S. in a quick and orderly manner while linking them with Americans who want to help them settle and support them financially.

Parole lasts for a maximum of two years. After it expires, individuals who want to remain in the U.S. must apply for asylum (which may be tricky in its own right), but the current asylum backlog stands at more than 1.6 million cases, meaning these Ukrainians could remain on temporary status for many years while they wait for a decision from the backlogged immigration courts. A more expeditious approach is for Congress to pass legislation that offers permanent status to Ukrainians — similar to the Afghan Adjustment Act now pending in Congress.

Lack of social trust and fear of immigration

A New Republic magazine poll: Improving border security and restricting illegal immigration will “strengthen democracy” Dems 61% Reps 93% will “weaken democracy” Dem 39% Reps 7%

“The possibility of political violence” Dems 81% Reps 61%

“Looking forward to the next 10 or 20 years, do you feel more confident or more worried about the future of democracy in America?” More worried Dems 64% Reps 75%.

The decline of social capital and anti-immigration sentiment:

2020 study: A review of 87 research articles found a statistically significant negative relationship between ethnic diversity, for example due to immigration, and social trust including social trust within groups.

Robert Putnam: One of America’s most respected social scientists, Robert Putnam, studied the social impact of ethnic diversity. The results shocked him so much that he withheld reporting them for years. Fighting his personal pro-immigrant leanings, he concluded, “immigration and ethnic diversity challenge social solidarity and inhibit social capital.” He describes social capital as a collective capacity to spark civic participation and trust, keys to building democracy. In his 2006 lecture, “E Pluribus Unum,” Putnam warned, “The more ethnically diverse a residential context is, the less we trust …” He said the more racially diverse a community, the less trust exists among neighbors. Even trust within groups is lower in more diverse settings.

See my postings here and here.

Tech workers flee Russia. Will they come to the U.S.?

Information technology employs a global workforce. A lot of tech workers in Russia are leaving. (I expect this has happened in Ukraine as well.) Where will they land?

The NY Times reports that “by March 22, a Russian tech industry trade group estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 tech workers had left the country and that an additional 70,000 to 100,000 would soon follow. They are part of a much larger exodus of workers from Russia, but their departure could have an even more lasting impact on the country’s economy.

The exodus will fundamentally change the Russian tech industry, according to interviews with more than two dozen people who are part of the tightknit community of Russian tech workers around the world, including many who left the country in recent weeks. An industry once seen as a rising force in the Russian economy is losing vast swaths of its workers. It is losing many of the bright young minds building companies for the future.”

The United States benefits enormously from the global nature of technical talent. The trends since the 1990s have been favorable.

The United States has a large lead over all other countries in top-tier AI research, with nearly 60% of top-tier researchers working for American universities and companies. The US lead is built on attracting international talent, with more than two-thirds of the top-tier AI researchers working in the United States having received undergraduate degrees in other countries.

In 1994, there were 6.2 U.S.-born workers for every foreign-born worker in science and engineering occupations. By 2006, the ratio was 3.1 to 1.

The enemy of our harvesting this talent is ourselves. 200,000 Green cards were wasted, unused, in FY 2021, due to inefficiencies within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Also go here.

Global Skills Partnerships

Addressing demographic imbalances and future migration pressure….I wrote about imbalances and the U.S. workforce in 2009 and in 2021. Global Skills Partnerships can address this.

An example using healthcare workers:

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2030, the global shortage of healthcare workers will reach 14.5 million people. While all countries are facing shortages, the composition of these shortages is different. For example, many African countries need more primary care nurses, and many European countries need aged-care nurses. Promoting more training and migration in these areas is one way to increase the global stock of health workers.

Example of a partnership between Morocco and Belgium:

This project is called PALIM and is currently in the pilot stage. They are training 120 people in specific Information and communication technology skills in need in both Belgium and Morocco. 40 have chosen to join the “away” track and will move to the Flanders region of Belgium, and the other 80 will stay in Morocco. They are now looking to expand the programme to 400 trainees across Morocco and Tunisia, and have spoken about similar projects in Guinea and the Gambia.



Tyler Cowen on global talent and immigration

Tyler Cowen interviewed by Noah Smith

Noah Smith: What are a few things that make you most optimistic about the world right now?

Tyler Cowen: By far the most optimistic feature of today’s world is that there is more mobilized talent than ever before, and by a long mile. A mere few decades ago, or less in many cases, if you were born into India, China, or Nigeria, the chance you could make a positive contribution to the world on a significant scale was quite low. It is now much, much higher, largely because of increases in wealth and also because of the internet. I also see the greater scope and speed of scientific communication — also because of the internet — as another force for optimism.

Noah Smith: What policies should we be doing right now to accelerate our long-term growth trajectory?

Tyler Cowen:  As for boosting growth, my number one recommendation would be much more high-skilled immigration. And then more low-skilled immigration to take care of their kids and help run their errands. I also would deregulate most of the American economy, starting with occupational licensing.