Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Simpler Evidence on Immigration and Institutions: An Assessment

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Jones and Fraser (2021) claim that Bologna Pavlik et al. (2019) and Clark et al. (2015) suffer from overcontrol bias that masks harmful relationships between immigrants from poorer or more corrupt origins and institutions in destination countries. They claim their simpler evidence sheds light on this important relationship. Both claims are false. We show that Jones and Fraser essentially confirm the null results reported in Bologna Pavlik et al. (2019) and thus there was no overcontrol bias masking an important relationship. We also show that Jones and Fraser are factually inaccurate when they claim to correct for overcontrol bias Clark et al.’s (2015) examination of the impact of immigration on economic freedom because Clark et al. never examine the relationship between flows of immigration from poorer or more corrupt countries and economic freedom as Jones and Fraser claim. Finally, we evaluate Jones and Fraser’s new evidence, which claims that there is a negative relationship between immigrant flows and economic freedom, and we find that by adding only a control for initial levels of economic freedom—a standard control in the literature studying changes in economic freedom—that their results lose statistical significance and sometimes change sign to indicate a positive association. The new case for immigration restrictions is generally not empirically supported by the literature investigating it. Jones and Fraser have given us no reason to doubt this literature.

This article is a response to Immigration’s Effect on Institutional Quality: The Place of Simpler Evidence by Garett Jones and Ryan Fraser (EJW, March 2021).