Archive | Immigration

What if the Supreme Court Eliminated Noncitizen Representation?

We are delighted to welcome back Karthick Ramakrishnan


Next week, the Supreme Court will hear the petition of Lepak v. City of Irving, to decide whether the principle of “one person, one vote” should be clarified to allow the exclusion of noncitizens.

 Plaintiffs in the case argue that counting noncitizens dilutes the influence of eligible voters, while others argue that the United States has, from its founding, counted persons such as slaves and women for purposes of representation, even if they did not have the right to vote.  States with high proportions of noncitizens have a lot at stake in this debate, given its potential to affect decisions ranging from House apportionment to the drawing of state and local legislative districts.

 If the Supreme Court allows for the exclusion of noncitizen residents, how would it affect Congressional apportionment?  We can calculate these effects using the following method: compiling data from the U.S. Census Bureau on total persons and total noncitizens, calculating what the House apportionment would look like if noncitizens were excluded (using the current method of equal proportions), and taking the difference from the actual allocation of seats based on total persons counted in 2010.


When we conduct this type of analysis for the current apportionment cycle, we find that gains from a policy shift would be relatively modest across states, but losses would be significant for California and Texas (see Table).  If, moving forward, only citizens were counted for purposes of apportionment, a total of 10 seats would be allocated differently.  California would stand to lose the most House seats (5), followed by Texas (2), Florida (1), New York (1), and Washington (1).  By contrast, various states in the Midwest region would gain one seat each.

Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Xenophobia and Citizenship in Switzerland

Jens Hainmueller and Dominik Hangartner have a new article in the APSR (ungated version here) that takes advantage of Switzerland’s high level of direct democracy to measure and understand the xenophobia of Swiss citizens. Some Swiss cantons allow citizens (or, in a couple of cases, a subset of long-established citizens) to vote directly on foreign residents’ applications for Swiss citizenship. The resumes of applicants for citizenship are circulated to voters, who then vote yes or no by secret ballot. The results are striking. In a 2008 opinion poll, 88% of voters in the country as a whole said that there should be no discrimination based on country of origin in naturalization decisions. However, as the below graph shows, country of origin plays a very important role in Swiss citizens’ private votes over whether to accept foreign residents as citizens or not.

Hainmueller and Hangartner report that the national origin of foreign residents explains about 40% of the variation in citizens’ opposition to their naturalization. Applicants of Turkish or Yugoslav origin on average get 13% or 15% more no votes than applicants from rich northern or western European countries. Hainmueller and Hangartner suggest that about 40% of this animus is explained by `statistical’ discrimination (citizens discriminating against people because they think that these people are less likely to be integrated) and 60% by taste based discrimination (citizens discriminating simply because they don’t like e.g. Turks or Yugoslavs). Furthermore,

In municipalities with the highest levels of xenophobia, Yugoslavian and Turkish applicants face a penalty of about 20–30 percentage points compared to observably similar applicants from richer northern and western European countries. This penalty is much
lower at about 3–10 percentage points in the least xenophobic municipalities. Also consistent with taste-based discrimination, the models reveal that the level of xenophobia is uncorrelated with the proportion of “no” votes for applicants from richer northern and western European countries (the lower-order terms for the anti-immigrant vote are close to zero). As a robustness check, [we also replicate] the models using two alternative measures of xenophobic tastes, the municipality-level vote shares from similar federal
anti-immigration referendums in 1983 and 1988, and the patterns are very similar. Taken together, these results indicate that origin-based discrimination is largely driven by local voters’ xenophobic prejudice. We would not expect such strong patterns if the discrimination were purely statistical.
Continue Reading

Fixing America’s Physician Shortage with Immigrants

Skills are often occupation-specific, a fact missing from existing research on the political economy of immigration. Although analyses of survey data suggest broad support for skilled migration occupational licensing regulations persist as formidable barriers to skilled migrants’ labor market entry. Regulations ostensibly serve the public interest by certifying competence but are simultaneously rent-preserving entry barriers. We analyze both the sources of US states’ licensure requirements for international medical graduates (IMGs), and the effect of these regulations on migrant physicians’ choice of US state in which to work over the period 1973-2010. Analysis of original data shows that states with self-financing state medical licensing boards, which can more easily be captured by incumbent physicians, have more stringent IMG licensure requirements. Additionally, we find that states that require IMGs to complete longer periods of supervised training receive fewer migrants. Our empirical results are robust to controls for states’ physician labor market. This research identifies an overlooked dimension of international economic integration: implicit barriers to the cross-national mobility of human capital, and the public policy implications of such barriers.

That’s from a new paper from Brendan Peterson, Sonal Pandya, and David Leblang.  The (catchy) title is “Doctors With Borders: Occupational Licensing as an Implicit Barrier to High Skill Migration.”  A press release is here, with this quote from Pandya:

…unelected U.S. state regulators are dictating the international transferability of skills through occupational licensing barriers, and removing such barriers has the potential to address some of our most pressing public policy concerns.
Continue Reading

Why aren’t Asians Republicans? For one thing, more than half of them live in California, New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii

Conservative data cruncher Charles Murray asks, “Why aren’t Asians Republicans?”:

Asians are only half as likely to identify themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative” as whites, and less than half as likely to identify themselves as Republicans. . . . 70% of Asians voted for Barack Obama in the last presidential election.

Something’s wrong with this picture. . . . Everyday observation of Asians around the world reveal them to be conspicuously entrepreneurial, industrious, family-oriented, and self-reliant. If you’re looking for a natural Republican constituency, Asians should define “natural.” . . .

Asian immigrants overwhelmingly succeeded, another experience that tends to produce conservative immigrants. Beyond that, Asian minorities everywhere in the world, including America, tend to be underrepresented in politics—they’re more interested in getting ahead commercially or in non-political professions than in running for office or organizing advocacy groups. Lack of interest in politics ordinarily translates into a “just don’t bother us” attitude that trends conservative. . . .

A few years ago, I addressed neoconservative Norman Podhoretz’s argument that Jews should vote Republican:

A problem with Podhoretz’s argument is it proves too much. Why are Jews Democrats? Why is anyone a Democrat? Once you accept that conservative economic policies are good for growth, you’d think just about everyone would lean Republican on economic issues.

Murray’s argument is, unsurprisingly, more sophisticated and data-based than that offered by Podhoretz. In particular, Murray explicitly makes the economic argument that a financially successful person should want to vote Republican. From this perspective, Murray is not surprised that low or moderate-income Asians vote for Democrats but he’s surprised at the voting patterns of high-income Asians. Murray writes that Asians are more likely than whites to have “conservative-skewed professions” such as managers and engineers—-but there’s a bit difference, politically, between being a manager or engineer in a tech company in California, as compared to the comparable position in an oil company in Texas.

As we discuss in Red State Blue State, it’s the higher-income voters who are more likely to vote based on social issues. Murray writes:

Republicans are seen by Asians—as they are by Latinos, blacks, and some large proportion of whites—as the party of Bible-thumping, anti-gay, anti-abortion creationists. Factually, that’s ludicrously inaccurate. In the public mind, except among Republicans, that image is taken for reality.

I don’t know what Murray means by “except among Republicans.” Rick Santorum is a Republican, no? If he’s not a “Bible-thumping, anti-gay, anti-abortion creationist,” who is?

And consider Marco Rubio, a prominent Republican who got into a bit of trouble recently for either admitting he does not believe in evolution, or going to a lot of trouble to deny he believes in evolution. According to this site (which I found by googling Marco Rubio abortion), Rubio “opposed Sotomayor nomination based on her Roe support.” Here he’s quoted as saying “’America cannot truly fulfill its destiny unless’ it ends abortion.” Rubio also “supports amendment to prevent same sex marriage,” “supports banning homosexuals in the military,” and “opposes employment non-discrimination act.” Lots of Americans share these views and Rubio has every right to promote them—-but “anti-gay, anti-abortion creationist” pretty much covers it.

To put it another way, most Republican voters are not “Bible-thumping, anti-gay, anti-abortion creationists,” but many prominent Republican leaders are.

Where do Asian voters live?

One way to understand the Asian vote is to ask where these voters live. It’s not in Alabama.

According to this site, the states with lots of Asians are mostly pretty liberal. Here are the 10 states with highest %Asian:

New Jersey
New York

And after that comes Illinois. And within these states I assume the Asians are likely to live in or near big cities.

At the bottom of the list, at less than 1% Asian, you have solidly Republican Montana, West Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Mississippi.

California alone is big enough that its 13% Asian represent a large proportion of all the Asians in the country. (Here’s a quick calculation: California has 38 million people, so 13% Asian comes to 5 million. The U.S. has 312 million people, 4.8% Asian, thus a total of 15 million.) A third of Asians in America live in California. And a bunch of the rest live in New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii.

This doesn’t by itself explain why Obama got so much of the Asian vote—-but it’s not a surprise that members of a minority group concentrated in urban areas on the Pacific coast and the Northeast are mostly voting for Democrats.

P.S. The commenters below add many helpful references. Let me emphasize that the above discussion is not intended to be the whole story. I’m just trying to put Murray’s claims in a political and geographic context.

Continue Reading

Partisanship in Everything: Public Opinion about Immigration

Bill Bishop reports on a new poll of voters living in rural areas in the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.  The poll contained the experiment depicted above, which confronted voters with two different positions on immigration, but varied whether those positions were attributed to the Democratic and Republican parties or had no party labels attached.  The result:

Republican-leaning rural voters supported the Republican position when it was labeled “Republican.” When the same position was asked without any partisan label, its support dropped 10 percentage points.
That’s the power of partisanship in today’s politics.
Continue Reading

Too many journals, or, Never respond to an email where they put your name in all caps

I received the following (unsolicited) email:


I have had an opportunity to read your paper entitled “WHAT IS THE PROBABILITY YOUR VOTE WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE?” published on the journal “Economic Inquiry”. I know you are an expert in this field.

I am Daisy, the editor of Business and Economic Research (BER) which is a peer-review, open access journal published by Macrothink Institute. Your submission will make an important contribution to the quality of this journal. You are sincerely invited to submit manuscripts at any time.

Business and Economic Research is indexed by CrossRef, EBSCOhost, Genamics JournalSeek, Google Scholar, LOCKSS, MediaFinder?-Standard Periodical Directory, PKP Open Archives Harvester, WorldCat, et al.

Each paper published in Business and Economic Research is assigned a DOI® number, which appears beneath the author’s affiliation in the published paper.

You may visit the journal’s website at to know more details and submit articles online at

We would be grateful if you could circulate the e-mail to your department members, colleagues and research students.

Best Regards,

Daisy Young
Business and Economic Research—————————————————————-
Macrothink Institute
5348 Vegas Dr.#825
Las Vegas, Nevada 89108
United States
Tel: 1-702-953-1852
Fax: 1-702-387-2666

A journal based in Las Vegas, huh? As a statistician this shouldn’t bother me, but still . . . I want to get my 100 journals without cheating.

Also, “Macrothink Institute” sounds about as bogus as “Sabato’s Crystal Ball.”

P.S. I can’t figure out where to place this post, as unfortunately this blog doesn’t have a Zombies category. I’ll put it in Immigration because when I clicked through the link, many of the articles seemed to be from other countries.

Continue Reading

SCOTUS Endorses Executive Discretion

Just a quick addendum to my post trying to disconnect the president’s recent administrative directive regarding immigration from broader and more dubious assertions of executive unlateralism. The Court’s decision on the Arizona immigration law SB 1070 upheld the notion that federal authorities may and even must make discretionary decisions about who, within the broad class of potentially deportable aliens, should actually be deported.

In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that:

“Congress has specified which aliens may [emph. added] be removed from the United States and the procedures for doing so…  A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials. Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all…. Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime. The equities of an individual case may turn on many factors, including whether the alien has children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service. Some discretionary decisions involve policy choices thatbear on this Nation’s international relations. Returning an alien to his own country may be deemed inappropriate even where he has committed a removable offense or fails to meet the criteria for admission.”


Continue Reading

Some Evidence on Local Citizen Immigration Boards

In the most recent Republican debate, Newt Gingrich repeated his idea about allow local citizens to decide whether illegal immigrants in their community can stay or would be deported.  Here’s a quote from an earlier story that mentions his idea:

“It’s the kind of thing that sounds right, maybe, when you sit on your couch and hear it,” said Steven Camarota, the research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tougher immigration enforcement.

He was talking about Gingrich’s idea to create local citizen boards, modeled on the boards that evaluated World War II draftees, to decide whether illegal immigrants should stay or go.

“But boy,” Camarota said, “when you take it all apart and think about how all this works in practice, it’s like, ‘ugh.’ ”

So how might it work in practice?  Well, we can turn to Switzerland for some insight, and in particular this paper by Jens Hainmueller and Dominik Hangartner.  Here’s how they describe the Swiss system:

In Switzerland, this link between citizenship and state building gave rise to a system of triple citizenship, which de nes Swiss citizenship on the basis of citizenship in a municipality, a canton, and the Confederation…This three-tiered system is unique in that it delegates the responsibility for the naturalization of foreigners largely to the municipal level. Federal laws impose formal naturalization requirements, but no immigrant can obtain a Swiss passport without acquiring citizenship of a municipality, and municipalities enact the naturalization procedures and ultimately decide on the applications. This contrasts with many other countries where naturalization procedures and criteria are typically de ned at the federal level and implemented by federal ministries or agencies (as in the U.S., France, Canada, or Belgium).

Hainmueller and Hangartner focus on a particular set of Swiss municipalities that use a secret ballot to determine whether immigrants will be granted citizenship.  Here’s how that works:

A typical naturalization referendum in our ballot box municipalities involved a two step process in which citizens received official leaflets with a one-page resume that detailed information about each immigrant applicant…Voters then cast a secret ballot to either reject or approve the applicant’s naturalization request, and applicants with a majority of “yes” votes were granted Swiss citizenship.

So what happens when citizens vote?

We find that the applicant’s country of origin has by far the most important impact on the outcome of the naturalization referenda. Holding all other characteristics constant, the rejection rate for immigrant applicants from (former) Yugoslavia is about 15 percentage points higher than for observably similar applicants from rich European countries (the reference category). This constitutes an increase of about 40 % over the average rejection rate.  Turkish applicants fare just as poorly with average rejection rates that are 13 percentage points higher; a 35 % increase over the average rejection rate.  Similarly, the increases in the average rejection rates are about 7 percentage points for applicants from other central or eastern European countries.

Other factors matter too, like how long the immigrant has been in the country.  But tenure in the country doesn’t matter much:

…these results imply that it would take more than 85 years of residency for an applicant from Yugoslavia to make up for the disadvantage that she faces as a result of her country of origin.

Education matters, but once again not much:

…we fi nd that an applicant from Turkey would have to attain 70 years of education to make up for the disadvantage that comes from his country of origin.

Now of course there are differences between this “ballot box” system and how a citizens board in the US might work.  For one, the Swiss boards are not evaluating illegal immigrants, as far as I know.  Second, I don’t think Gingrich is proposing to let a citizens board actually award citizenship.  Third, it’s not clear how salient the nationality of illegal immigrants would be.  I don’t think that most Americans make strong distinctions among Mexicans, Salvadorans, etc.  So perhaps factors such as an immigrant’s skills or level of education or tenure in the country could matter.

But the results of this study should raise concerns about how fairly we as citizens can make these judgments.  As Hainmueller and Hangartner put it:

In particular, we show that observably similar applicants face dramatically di fferent rejection rates depending on their country of origin, which matches the legal defi nition of discrimination according to the Swiss constitution.

It would arguably raise similar concerns in the US.

Continue Reading

Why doesn’t the President use the pardon power to adopt the DREAM Act?

One of the little joys of teaching a Presidency class in the fall is that my session on Presidential pardons falls around Thanksgiving so I can lead off with video of the leader of the free world pardoning a turkey.  However, one of the interesting things about the pardoning power is that, with the exception of impeachment charges, “the President’s authority to grant pardons [for federal offenses] is essentially unfettered” as this CRS report explains.  Presidents can pardon individuals or classes of people, with or without conditions.

While the possibilities are vast, modern presidents use the power to pardon sparingly.  Other than a few political cronies, moonshiners, and fowl friends, Presidents have been reluctant to appear “soft on crime” and slow to use the pardon power.  And since 1980, almost all pardons have been for specific individuals after the President and his staff have weighed the merits of each person’s case.

But it is also possible for Presidents to pardon entire classes of persons subject to a set of criteria laid out by the President.  In 1977, Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam-era draft evaders.  Even more significant, Andrew Johnson gave a general pardon (with limited exceptions) to anyone who participated in the Southern rebellion; this was a cornerstone of his Reconstruction policy.

So,  how could President Obama use this power to advance his policy agenda?  The most salient option would seem to grant relief  to some or all of the 10.2 million undocumented immigrants living with our borders.  Since Congress has failed to act on comprehensive immigration reform (2006) and the limited DREAM Act was blocked in 2010, there seems little chance that any change will occur without Presidential action.  While President Obama has the constitutional power to grant unconditional amnesty (permanent residency) to all these persons, it would be more likely that he would grant pardons to subsets of immigrants who meet certain conditions.  This could include:

  • Following the 2006 Senate Republican proposal, using the pardon power to suspend deportation or punishment for undocumented persons who have been in the U.S. for five years and pay a fine and back taxes;

  • Following the DREAM Act, pardoning anyone who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, and graduated from high school, and met any other conditions set by the President (e.g. military service).

  • Following Newt Gingrich, pardoning anyone who has been here 25 years, has three kids and two grandkids, has been paying taxes and obeying the law, and belongs to a local church.

  • Selecting some exemplars to receive symbolic pardons and be introduced at the next State of the Union address.

As a scholar, I am interested in the political actions that don’t happen, and this strikes me as an interesting case of non-action. One explanation is that I misunderstand the scope of the pardon power and immigration is outside that scope. Or, perhaps the President is reluctant to intrude on Congress’s authority to (not) act on immigration, although that seems unlikely since the White House’s “We Can’t Wait” strategy is predicated on direct presidential action to combat legislative paralysis. So, I welcome comments to correct my interpretation of the law or the politics of immigration.

Continue Reading

When Can You Trust Polling about Ballot Measures?

In just over a week, Ohio voters will decide on Issue 2, a referendum on whether to keep a recently enacted law which “limits collective bargaining for public employees in the state.”  Recent polls show decidedly more public opposition to this law than support for it, with a 57-32 pro-repeal split in a Quinnipiac poll and a similar 56-36 split in a PPP poll.  But as Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent reports, labor groups opposing the law are circulating a once-internal memo questioning just how predictive those polls will turn out to be.  The memo points out that the surveys do not include the actual language that will appear on the ballot, that turnout levels in off-year elections are uncertain, and that polling on prior Ohio ballot measures has been inaccurate.

The accuracy of telephone surveys on ballot measures is an empirical question, and one that is of interest well beyond Ohio’s Issue 2, so let’s look at the data.  Between 2003 and 2010, we can track down 438 publicly available survey questions about support for state-level ballot measures in upcoming elections.  The first point to make is that there is some external validity to that internal memo: there is often a pronounced gap between the surveys and the election-day outcomes.  The average absolute difference between the polls and the outcomes—the average polling error—is a striking 7.8 percentage points.  In 26.5% of the polls, the eventual election outcome differed from what the poll predicted by more than the swing needed to turn the Ohio PPP result into a dead heat on election day.

Yet those results tell us about the magnitude of the errors, not about their likely direction.  So the question becomes, can we identify any systematic biases in the pre-election polls?  Only a handful of the ballot measures in this data set deal with labor unions specifically, so there is not much to say there.  But we can identify clusters of ballot measures on more common issues and then look for patterns in the issues that induce larger or smaller polling-performance gaps.

The Figure just below shows the relevant regression coefficients, where the gap between performance and polls is predicted using the ballot measure’s baseline support, issue-specific indicator variables, and the year of the election.  (A similar technique is at work in some prior research.)  Each estimated coefficient is a dot, with the thin line representing a 95% confidence interval.  Positive coefficients indicate issues that receive more support at the ballot box than the poll would predict, with the baseline being the hundreds of polls on all other issues.

The results?  Surveys on ballot measures to ban same-sex marriage systematically and strongly understate their support on election day, by an average of 8.3 percentage points.  NYU’s Patrick Egan has documented this bias as well.  Voters tell pollsters they will oppose same-sex marriage bans at notably higher rates than they actually do.  Polls on ballot measures to restrict immigration show a similar bias, as they also underestimate the electorate’s support.  Social desirability gives us an off-the-shelf explanation for both results.  And it gets added weight from the marijuana-related ballot measures, whose support is underestimated as well.  People vote to expand access to marijuana at higher rates than they indicate to phone interviewers, a finding that Nate Silver has explored.

By contrast, most of the other issues don’t produce very large biases in either direction, including the issues (like education and tax reduction) most closely related to Ohio’s Issue 2.  These patterns are consistent with the claim that polling is especially difficult where social desirability comes into play, with respondents not wanting to seem homophobic, anti-immigrant, or pro-marijuana.  In fact, the only result that doesn’t make immediate sense from a social desirability standpoint is the null result for ballot measures on restricting gambling.  So while the polling of ballot measures is prone to significant variability, it appears to be those ballot measures that address socially sensitive groups or topics that give rise to the most predictable errors.

Continue Reading