Immigrants May Not Cost Much Now, but They Will Later

Article excerpt

I have for years admired Professor Julian Simon's sometimes seemingly single-handed struggle against the ecological doomsayers and his willingness to lay money on the line in support of his position predicting that their scenarios of dire shortage and disaster are false. Especially noteworthy is his support for the valid concept that a larger population can be better for an advanced economy than a shrinking one.

Therefore, I was dismayed to see the major fallacy in his statistical comparison of public funds provided immigrants, especially recent ones vs. natives - that is, long-term residents. This statistic is repeated in his recent letter, with his citation of $3,800 in public funds received by natives vs. $2,200 to $2,600 received by immigrants (see his March 21 letter, "Check the data, and you'll find natives get more benefits than immigrants," and his March 11 Commentary article, "Immigration exploitation myths . . . or reality?").

From the bar graph accompanying his article as well as the text, it is obvious that the cause of this conclusion is his calculation of transfer payments on a current-year basis, in which the massive difference in Social Security and old-age medical payments favoring long-term residents outweighs the difference in favor of immigration in all other categories. But the two types of payments (Social Security and Medicare vs. all others) are structurally different and funded differently. Of course, most recent immigrants are now paying into Social Security, whereas natives are receiving more payments per capita out of Social Security. …