A hugely influential paper found immigration lowers locals’ wages. But a new study says it made a big mistake

When immigrants arrive, what happens to locals’ wages?

One of the core arguments of most immigration opponents is that competition from immigrants makes the people who are already in a country worse off.

That seems to make intuitive sense. Basic supply and demand: If there are more workers, wages should fall.

A recent study by the Harvard economist George Borjas found that was true. He took advantage of a natural experiment — the Mariel boatlift, which brought thousands of Cubans to Miami. Mr. Borjas looked at the wages of low-skilled workers in Miami, and found that they fell substantially after the “Marielitos” arrived. By comparing Miami during that period with other cities that didn’t have the same influx of immigrants, he was able to estimate how much of that effect was the result of immigration, as opposed to broader economic factors.

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