August 2014

IZA DP No. 8406: Should the U.S. Continue Its Family-Friendly Immigration Policy?

An ongoing debate is whether the U.S. should continue its family-based admission system, which favors visas for family members of U.S. citizens and residents, or adopt a more skills-based system, replacing family visas with employment-based visas. In many ways this is a false dichotomy: family-friendly policies attract highly-skilled immigrants regardless of their own visa path, and there are not strong reasons why a loosening of restrictions on employment migrants need be accompanied by new restrictions on family-based immigration. Moreover, it is misleading to think that only employment-based immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy. Recent immigrants, who have mostly entered via kinship ties, are economically productive, a fact hidden by a flawed methodology that underlies most economic analyses of immigrant economic assimilation.