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Heaven's Door:
Immigration Policy and the American Economy
George J. Borjas
With a new preface by the author

Honorable Mention for the 1999 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Government and Political Science, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 2001 | $52.50 | £44.95 | ISBN: 9780691088969
296 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 40 line illus., 23 tables
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The U.S. took in more than a million immigrants per year in the late 1990s, more than at any other time in history. For humanitarian and many other reasons, this may be good news. But as George Borjas shows in Heaven's Door, it's decidedly mixed news for the American economy--and positively bad news for the country's poorest citizens. Widely regarded as the country's leading immigration economist, Borjas presents the most comprehensive, accessible, and up-to-date account yet of the economic impact of recent immigration on America. He reveals that the benefits of immigration have been greatly exaggerated and that, if we allow immigration to continue unabated and unmodified, we are supporting an astonishing transfer of wealth from the poorest people in the country, who are disproportionately minorities, to the richest.

In the course of the book, Borjas carefully analyzes immigrants' skills, national origins, welfare use, economic mobility, and impact on the labor market, and he makes groundbreaking use of new data to trace current trends in ethnic segregation. He also evaluates the implications of the evidence for the type of immigration policy the that U.S. should pursue. Some of his findings are dramatic:

Despite estimates that range into hundreds of billions of dollars, net annual gains from immigration are only about $8 billion.

In dragging down wages, immigration currently shifts about $160 billion per year from workers to employers and users of immigrants' services.

Immigrants today are less skilled than their predecessors, more likely to re-quire public assistance, and far more likely to have children who remain in poor, segregated communities.

Borjas considers the moral arguments against restricting immigration and writes eloquently about his own past as an immigrant from Cuba. But he concludes that in the current economic climate--which is less conducive to mass immigration of unskilled labor than past eras--it would be fair and wise to return immigration to the levels of the 1970s (roughly 500,000 per year) and institute policies to favor more skilled immigrants.


"[A] tour de force on the economics of immigration. In the policy area where emotion or ideology usually overwhelms analysis, this is a stunning piece of research--nuanced, lucid and forceful. . . . This is an enormously impressive book."--Peter Skerry, The Washington Post

"For an impressively researched, brightly written and tightly argued polemic against America's current liberal immigration policy, look at Heaven's Door."--Sylvia Nasar, New York Times

"A former Cuban refugee, Borjas addresses vexing questions in the U.S. immigration debate, offering an up-to-date and informative assessment of the modern immigrant experience and an excellent review of the recent academic research."--Foreign Affairs

"Borjas is the leading American economist conducting research and writing about immigration policy. A mervelous read."--Library Journal

"Borjas is a remarkably clear guide to the issues. . . . Borjas, one is convinced, is acting from concern for the public good as his research has revealed it to him."--Nathan Glazer, Harvard Magazine

"Will probably become the most influential, widely read study of the subject."--Choice

"I highly recommend this book. It is written in a very accessible style; the arguments are easy to follow by nonexperts. . . . For those who might want to consider some important facts that bear on the future of immigration to the United States, though, I would urge them to read this book."--Jim Gimpel, Political Science Quarterly

"A thoughtful, sophisticated and richly informative book that merits close attention."--Stephan Thernstrom, Times Literary Supplement

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Table of Contents:

CHAPTER 1: Reframing the Immigration Debate 3
CHAPTER 2: The Skills of Immigrants 19
CHAPTER 3: National Origin 39
CHAPTER 4: The Labor Market Impact of Immigration 62
CHAPTER 5: The Economic Benefits from Immigration 87
CHAPTER 6: Immigration and the Welfare State 105
CHAPTER 7: Social Mobility across Generations 127
CHAPTER 8: Ethnic Capital 146
CHAPTER 9: Ethnic Ghettos 161
CHAPTER 10: The Goals of Immigration Policy 174
CHAPTER 11: A Proposal for an Immigration Policy 189
CHAPTER 12: Conclusion 211

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