Campaign 2016 is in full swing. It’s loud; it’s contentious; it’s full of in-your-face rhetoric, and it’s being conducted in sound bites and slogans that make it difficult to think calmly about the different positions. Feelings about immigration policy run so high that it seems impossible to have a reasonable discussion, but as critical thinkers, we can at least try. Using the economic way of thinking lets us sort out which parts of the debate are truly matters of opinion – where we need to respect people’s different values and beliefs – and which parts can be informed by evidence.
If our goal is reasonable discussion, the first step is sorting fact from opinion. Fortunately, for some aspects of the immigration issue, data and evidence let critical thinkers to distinguish fact from opinion and to decide whether that evidence supports or challenges opinions.
Immigration 2016 uses the economic way of thinking to analyze the impact of immigration on jobs and wages. Economic Reasoning Proposition #1 reminds us that immigration is a social phenomenon resulting from the choices made by individuals, rather than by some mysterious “historical forces.” We all make individual choices by comparing expected costs and benefits of our options, and immigrants are no exception. Consciously or unconsciously, each potential immigrant uses opportunity cost analysis to decide whether or not to leave home for the U.S. But immigrants aren’t the only decision-makers involved in this social phenomenon. Employers also weigh the expected costs and benefits of their alternatives, including hiring or not hiring immigrant workers. Looking at how the incentives and the policy rules of the game impact those decisions is a first step toward an informed, rational opinion about policy proposals in the 2016 campaign.
|Immigration 2016 (Students)
Immigration 2016 (Teacher Guide)
The FTE thanks Mitchell Nelson, Economics and Government teacher at Chesterton High School in Chesterton, IN for the research updating this Hot Topic. The lesson was edited, with permission, and any errors are the responsibility of FTE staff. (Questions or comments? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)