Diversity and Immigration
NBER Working Paper No. 6535
One of the economic benefits of immigration is that the diversity of the population is enhanced. Diversity, it is argued, enriches the environment in which individuals live and trade and may contribute to greater creativity. What does diversity mean? Do current immigration policies enhance diversity? To the extent that there are gains from diversity, they come through the interaction of individuals from one culture or background with individuals from another. A good partner in the interaction has different skills, has skills that are relevant to one's own activity, and is a person with whom one can communicate. The argument in favor of diversity is evaluated both theoretically and empirically using the 1990 Census. Diversity cannot be the justification of U.S. immigration policy. Indeed, current immigration policy fails to promote diversity. Further, the results suggest that our immigration policy has resulted in differences in the characteristics of immigrants that reflect the effects of selection as much as they do the underlying characteristics of the populations from which the immigrants are drawn. Balanced immigration, perhaps implemented through the sale of immigration slots, would do more to enrich the diversity of the US population.