Lazear: What Obama’s Immigration Shift Means

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President Obama’s plan to issue work permits to younger, undocumented immigrants won’t have much impact on the labor force — unless you’re an unskilled worker, Stanford University economics professor Ed Lazear said Friday.

“This is a question that’s been researched to death by economists. It’s a very important question, and it’s one that’s been looked at over and over again,” he said on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report.”

“The basic finding, I think in that literature, is that the effects, to be honest, are pretty small,” he said. “That is, the effects of having an immigrant population come in are minor on the economy as a whole”

Earlier, the White House announced the policy change, which would affect up to 800,000 undocumented immigrants.

Lazear, who chaired President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2006 to 2009, said the effect on the nation’s unemployment rate would be negligible.

The move, instead, would most likely affect low-income individuals. “It’s not like they can take the hit right now,” he said.

Lazear suggested that there was a smarter way to craft policy regarding immigrant workers.

“One of the things that you’ve got to remember is that the United States is the team that everybody wants to play for. We are the most coveted place in terms of immigration slots,” he said.

“We don’t allocate those slots in the most efficient fashion. Obviously, we want to have family reuinification. But we also want to bring in the kinds of skills that we need. And if you’re trying to minimize the impact on the labor force, what you want to do is you want to bring in people who are going to complementary rather than substitutable for current individuals.”

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