Use this button to switch between dark and light mode.

A Landmark Study Debunks Populist Anti-Immigrant Narratives

August 03, 2023 (1 min read)

Michael Clemens, Aug. 3, 2023

"Even before Donald Trump arrived on the scene, the notion that we have to stop or substantially scale back immigration to America—a country of immigrants— because immigrants today simply do not assimilate like those of yore had been gaining considerable traction on the populist right. But Trump took such talk to a whole new level when he berated immigration from “shithole countries.” In one of his less inflammatory speeches, he explained, “We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate.”

These narratives are not supported by facts, as social scientists—particularly economists—have exhaustively documented. But as with all research, there is room for debate and doubt. However, a landmark—and massive—study by Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan, Streets of Gold, all but settles the debate—and not in favor of the populists. Since its release in 2022, it has become a standard reference for the economic history of immigration in the United States. It will and should take its place alongside Aristide Zolberg’s A Nation by Design, Mae Ngai’s Impossible Subjects and Kelly Lytle Hernandez’s Migra! on every college reading list.

But it should also be on every thoughtful citizen’s bookshelf because it is a perfect public affairs book: Not only is it comprehensive, it is also comprehensible. Anyone interested in immigration can understand this book."