Measuring Change in Immigration Policy

Measuring Change in Immigration Policy

Measuring Change in Immigration Policy

Measuring Change in Immigration Policy


Challen demonstrates with new data that U.S. policy makers have not increased skill bias in migrant admissions policy, despite a turbulent economy and public concern regarding the fiscal cost of immigration. She presents a new theory of the determinants of change in U.S. migrant admissions policy that highlights the importance of supermajoritarian decision making procedures and special interest groups in influencing policy making in the U.S. Senate. The theory better accounts for both the expansive nature and the infrequency of policy change since 1965. In the final chapter, a methodological principle for data collection is developed that allows researchers to minimize data loss, increase transparency, and maximize the flexibility of data use for comparative policy measures.



The purpose of this book is to identify, in a comprehensive and complete manner, the policies that the United States has enacted to shape migrant admissions, and to understand why the U.S. has these policies. The research presented in the following chapters covers the time period from 1965 - 2008, covering all policy changes from the 89th Congress to the 110th Congress in U.S. migrant admissions. At the end of this introduction, I discuss the relevance of this research to understanding the Senate passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act in June 2013. At the time this book went to press in July 2013, this bill had yet to be debated in the House of Representatives.


The second chapter entitled, “Brain Gain? Skill bias in U.S. migrant admissions policy,” develops a conceptual and operational definition of skill bias, the level of emphasis placed on an applicant’s skills in an admissions decision relative to alternative types of selection criteria. I apply the measure to new data revealing the level of skill bias in U.S. migrant admissions policy between 1965 and 2008. Skill bias is both a critical determinant of the skill composition of the migrant population and a response to economic and public demand for highly skilled migrants. However, despite its central role, this is the first direct, comprehensive, annual measure of skill bias.

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