JASON RICHWINE: Famous Study Showing Immigration Doesn’t Depress Wages Contradicted.

There is perhaps no economic study more often cited by immigration advocates than economist David Card’s 1990 analysis of the “Mariel boatlift.” [PDF] . . . Card was surprisingly unable to detect any wage impact at all. . . .

George Borjas has a new working paper that directly contradicts Card’s findings. (Disclosure: Borjas was my advisor in graduate school, and we have remained in touch since then.) Drawing on past research showing that low-skill immigrants compete primarily with the least educated natives, Borjas found that the wage for high-school dropouts in Miami had declined by almost 40 percent relative to a control group of cities five years after the boatlift. The wage change in Miami was more negative than 99 percent of wage changes in every other major city over similar time intervals.

Although Borjas mentions it only in passing, his new findings also cast doubt on two other common claims made by immigration advocates. The first is that immigrants compete only with other immigrants in the labor force, leaving native wages unaffected. . . . Borjas intentionally focused on non-Hispanic residents of Miami, who were mostly native-born. They are the group that experienced the wage declines noted above.

The second claim is that high-school dropouts and high-school graduates might be “substitutes” in the labor market . . . Borjas showed that the wages of high school dropouts and graduates in Miami diverged sharply after the boatlift, implying they are not substitutes at all. It’s the dropouts who feel the pain.