The third and final conference in AEI’s investigation of international competitiveness focused on high-skilled immigrants and the potential of immigration policies to affect a country’s competitiveness. Gordon Hanson, a professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego, began by presenting the highlights of his paper investigating this issue. In keeping with the previous conferences, he proposed his own definition of national “competitiveness” as a country’s ability to capture market share. He concluded based on available data that the immigration of high-skilled workers, such as those with doctorates, is undoubtedly a positive influence on the overall economy . Hanson added that the net effect of low-skilled immigration on the overall economy is far less significant than the importance of attracting high-skilled labor. Barry Chiswick, a professor and chair of the Department of Economics at George Washington University, cited on a broad range of literature, including several AEI publications, to build on the potential problems with low-skilled immigration. He reinforced the importance of high-skilled immigration and emphasized that the United States remains competitive in this area despite its immigration policies, not because of them. Finally, he left the audience with a resounding policy challenge that the United States will have to face in the years to come.
Politicians often call for actions to enhance U.S. competitiveness and chide their political rivals for pursuing policies contrary to that purpose. Meanwhile, segments of the academic community have largely written off national competitiveness as meaningless. Economist Paul Krugman went so far as to say that “the obsession with competitiveness is not only wrong but dangerous.” In light of the academic challenge to the notion of competitiveness, AEI has gathered experts to research the value of the concept of competitiveness in different spheres.
High-skilled immigration is one area where the concept of competitiveness may be quite valuable, as immigration policies have the potential to affect a country’s competitiveness. How does the United States fare in the global competition for talent, and what policy changes could tip the scales in the United States’ favor? This AEI conference will be the last of a three-part series; papers from the series will be published as an AEI book this fall.
Registration and Breakfast
Immigration, Productivity and Competitiveness in American Industry
GORDON HANSON, University of California, San Diego
BARRY R. CHISWICK, George Washington University
KEVIN A. HASSETT, AEI
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Barry R. Chiswick has been a professor and chair of the Department of Economics at George Washington University since January 2011. Previously, he taught in the Department of Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He was also founding director of the UIC Center for Economic Education (2000–2010) and program director for migration studies at IZA – Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany (2004–2011). From 1973 to 1977 he was senior staff economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. He is a former chairman of the American Statistical Association Census Advisory Committee; past president of the European Society for Population Economics, the Midwest Economics Association and the Illinois Economics Association; and a consultant to numerous U.S. government agencies, the World Bank and other international organizations. He is currently associate editor of the Journal of Population Economics and Research in Economics of the Household and on the editorial boards of four additional academic journals. Mr. Chiswick is considered the leader in the field of the economics of immigration and also has an international reputation for his research in labor economics, human resources, the economics of minorities and of religion, and income distribution. He has published 18 books and monographs and over 170 scholarly journal articles and book chapters, in addition to other publications. His recent book is “The Economics of Language,” with Paul W. Miller (Routledge, 2007).
Gordon Hanson is director of the Center on Emerging and Pacific Economies and professor of economics at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), where he holds faculty positions in the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies and the Department of Economics. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a co-editor of the Review of Economics and Statistics. Before joining UCSD in 2001, he was on the economics faculty at the University of Michigan (1998–2001) and the University of Texas (1992–1998). In 2011, Mr. Hanson received the Chancellor’s Associates Award for Excellence in Research in Social Science and the Humanities from UCSD. He specializes in the economics of international trade, international migration and foreign direct investment. He has published extensively in the top academic economics journals, is widely cited for his research by scholars across the social sciences and is frequently quoted in major media outlets. His current research examines the international migration of skilled labor, border enforcement and illegal immigration, the impact of imports from China on the U.S. labor market, and the determinants of comparative advantage. His most recent book is “Regulating Low-Skilled Immigration in the United States” (AEI Press, 2010).
Kevin Hassett is the director of economic policy studies and a senior fellow at AEI. Before joining AEI, he was a senior economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and an associate professor of economics and finance at the Graduate School of Business of Columbia University, as well as a policy consultant to the Treasury Department during the George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations. He served as an economic adviser to the George W. Bush 2004 presidential campaign, chief economic adviser to Senator John McCain during the 2000 presidential primaries and senior economic adviser to the McCain 2008 presidential campaign. Mr. Hassett also writes a column for National Review.