Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Immigration’s Effect on Institutional Quality: The Place of Simpler Evidence

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On critical topics economists often begin their inquiries with scatterplots and correlations. Such simpler forms of evidence have been wanting on whether greater immigration from relatively poor and corrupt countries predicts changes in institutional quality. Some researchers report the relationship between immigration and institutional quality while controlling for multiple measures of institutional quality—plausible cases of overcontrol bias. We follow a simpler approach, using the data set from a 2019 article in Southern Economic Journal. Among other results, we find that over the 1995 to 2015 period, higher rates of immigration from relatively poorer or more corrupt countries have a statistically significant −0.4 Spearman rank correlation and −0.3 Kendall rank correlation with changes in economic freedom.

Response to this article by Jamie Bologna Pavlik, Estefania Lujan Padilla, and Benjamin Powell: Simpler Evidence on Immigration and Institutions: An Assessment (EJW, March 2021).