Thursday, March 12, 2020

New report on the fiscal impact of refugee resettlement

I have a new report out this month debunking the notion that refugee resettlement in the U.S. is a "win-win" in the sense of costing taxpayers nothing for their humanitarian gesture. From the introduction:
Advocates of expanding the number of refugees admitted to the United States have lately portrayed their position as a win-win — refugee resettlement not only assists the refugees themselves, it also allegedly improves our nation's fiscal health. The fiscal claim is unsupportable. Although refugees from earlier generations were often well educated, today's refugees have fewer than nine years of schooling on average. Because of their low earning power and immediate access to welfare benefits, recent refugees cost the government substantially more than they contribute in taxes, even over the long term. 
Our best estimate of the average refugee's lifetime fiscal cost, expressed as a net present value, is $60,000, with those entering as adults (ages 25 to 64) costing $133,000 each. Perhaps this is a price that the United States should be willing to pay to further its humanitarian goals. However, resettlement in the United States may not be the most cost-effective means of aiding displaced people.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

New report and video on employment discrimination against U.S. workers

Last Thursday I published a new report through the Center for Immigration Studies called "No Americans Need Apply." CIS hosted a panel event the same day featuring myself, Peter Kirsanow, and Kevin Lynn. Excerpts from the report and the event are below.
This report examines real-world case studies of the negative effects of immigration on the labor market. The source of these cases is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which for about two decades has been uncovering evidence that U.S. companies actively seek to replace low-skill native workers with immigrants. A sample of EEOC cases, presented in rough chronological order below, paints a disturbing picture of how low-skill American workers — typically black, but sometimes white as well — are systematically passed over for manual labor jobs in favor of Hispanics, who are usually foreign-born in the regions where these cases predominate. 
Of course, no set of EEOC cases, no matter how consistent and extensive, is ironclad proof that immigration negatively affects low-skill natives as a group. Nevertheless, the cases reveal that at least in certain regions and certain industries, natives certainly do lose. And if the anti-native mindset among U.S. employers is as widespread as these cases suggest, the number of losers could be large.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

New report and event video on immigrant healthcare costs

I published a new CIS report this week entitled, "The Cost of Immigrant Medicaid Coverage Under Current Policy," which establishes the context for proposals to possibly expand eligibility to include illegal immigrants. CIS also put together an event at the National Press Club. Here's my short talk:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

"The truth about teacher pay" published in National Affairs

Top billing! I can't recall that happening before. The full text is available ungated. Here's a preview:
...[A]n inordinate focus on teacher salaries feeds unrealistic expectations for the profession. Although teacher quality certainly matters, most of the variance in student achievement is associated with factors outside the classroom. Just as current teachers should not be blamed for "failing schools," policymakers should not simply assume that investing heavily in teacher salaries is worth the political and economic costs. The most prudent course would be to implement modest structural reforms, while de-emphasizing the level of teacher pay as a focal point of education reform.
Please read the whole thing. This means you, journalist who is tempted to uncritically cite the Economic Policy Institute's "teacher pay gap."

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Justice on Trial reviewed

I followed Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process rather closely - closely enough that I could write a 2,500-word treatise explaining that the assault charges against him were almost certainly false, and that his opponents' refusal to engage with the evidence was alarming. Still, I learned a lot from Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino's new book, Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court. Hemingway is a journalist, and Severino helps lead the Judicial Crisis Network, which supports the confirmation of conservative judges. Their book supplements the familiar narrative of the confirmation fight with a lot of behind-the-scenes material from the Kavanaugh camp.

I'll just mention a couple of their revelations here. First, the yearbook from Holton-Arms (where Christine Ford went to school) was at least as embarrassing as Georgetown Prep's (where Kavanaugh went to school), with many references to sexuality and drunkenness. Classmates report that Ford was personally very much into both. Despite having this information, Kavanaugh's team declined to publicize it, fearing a backlash. That may have been a wise strategy, but the double standard is glaring. Both the media and the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had no compunction about digging into Kavanaugh's drinking habits, his sexual habits, his friends' drinking and sexual habits, and the overall culture at Georgetown Prep. Their position was that if Kavanaugh was a heavy drinker who objectified girls, he may have blacked out or simply not remembered what he did to Ford. And yet a similar argument could be made about Ford. If she was a heavy drinker who fooled around with lots of boys, her memory could have been impaired, and unrelated incidents could blur together in her mind. Maybe these insinuations are unfair, but there is no reason that only the accuser -- and not the accused -- should be protected from them.

A second revelation is that Leland Keyser's testimony to the FBI went further in exonerating Kavanaugh than her testimony to the Judiciary Committee did. Keyser is Ford's longtime friend and the only girl whom Ford placed at the party. When Keyser told the committee that she could not remember any such party, and that in fact she did not know Kavanaugh at all, it was devastating to Ford's case. (Or at least it should have been.) A public and private pressure campaign began among Ford allies to convince Keyser to say something supportive. In a second statement to the committee, Keyser reiterated that she had no memory of Kavanaugh, but that she nevertheless believed Ford's accusation. According to Hemingway and Severino, Keyser had the opportunity to think through her activities in the summer of 1983 in more detail during the FBI investigation. She requested a second interview with the FBI, in which she stated that she no longer believed Ford's story, as it simply wasn't plausible that she (Keyser) attended such a party at that time.

Keyser's FBI testimony was supposed to be for senators' eyes only, so it's not clear how the authors know the details of it. One of my longstanding problems with journalism is that we're asked to trust the word of reporters, who are in turn probably trusting the word of anonymous sources. I've seen too many instances of mangled facts in order for me to take anything on faith, but this story about Keyser, if true, is even more devastating to Ford than the public evidence. It's also even more damning of the Democratic senators who still insist that Kavanaugh is guilty.

[Update 9/19/2019: Leland Keyser has now spoken on the record to a pair of New York Times reporters, confirming what Justice on Trial initially reported about her FBI testimony.]

Hemingway and Severino offer an inspiring message near the end of their book. They profile a liberal lawyer whose friends abandoned her because she vouched for Kavanaugh's character:
If she has lost friends, she views it as their loss....Imagine a world where fewer people were scared to stand up for what they believed. It could start a virtuous circle, in which every person who bucked the popular views would drive down the cost of standing up.
I offered similar sentiments after Kavanaugh's powerful testimony refuting Ford's allegation: "Bravery is not something that the Republican establishment is known for. With the force of his arguments, Brett Kavanaugh may have changed that. We should all follow his example."

In an otherwise great book, I did find one weak section. Citing two studies, the authors write, "A small but significant portion of sexual assault allegations -- between 2 and 10 percent, according to empirical studies -- are eventually deemed false." This empirical claim is misleading without more context. One might think the quoted numbers imply at least 90 percent of rape allegations are true, but that is emphatically not the case. Nearly half of the rape allegations in the first study they cite "did not proceed," meaning no truth determination was made either way. For more details, see this post I did for National Review.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New piece in Quillette: Free speech is about more than the First Amendment

I'm pleased to appear in Quillette this week on a topic that I had been wanting to write about for a long time -- namely, the importance of recognizing free speech as a cultural value rather than simply a restraint on the government. The piece has received a decent amount of attention. From the conclusion:
When responding to speech we don’t like, a useful guideline is to ask ourselves, “Am I disagreeing, or am I retaliating? Am I trying to persuade, or am I trying to silence?” If retaliation or silencing is the goal, remember that such techniques will ultimately be used not just on “bad” speech, but on “good” speech, as well. And when people refrain from speaking because they fear personal retribution from corporations, the media, academia, or an unruly Twitter mob, the value of their speech is lost—lost in the same way it would be if the government threatened them with punishment.
Read the whole thing there.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The College Board’s “adversity score” perpetuates the myth of SAT bias

[I originally wrote this for NR, but I'm reposting here because this perspective has not received enough attention.]

[Update: I wrote another piece addressing similar misinformation about the SAT.]

A common defense of affirmative action in college admissions is that it simply adjusts for difficult childhood circumstances. Under this theory, students from underrepresented groups score below their true ability level on the SAT due to poverty or discrimination or a lack of fancy test prep, but they will thrive once brought to an enriching university environment. If true, affirmative action would not involve any lowering of admission standards, but rather a fairer appraisal of each applicant’s abilities.

It’s not true. Researchers have known for decades that SAT scores predict college performance for poor and minority students about as well as they do for everyone else. To the extent there is a difference, the SAT actually over-predicts their performance. Therefore, if the goal is to find the students who will be most academically successful, colleges should not bump up applicants’ SAT scores on the basis of poverty or race.

That’s one reason why the College Board’s new “adversity score” is so troubling. By providing schools with a secret quantification of each applicant’s childhood environment, the College Board furthers the myth that the SAT is predictively biased along socioeconomic lines. According to the New York Times:

Admissions officers have also tried for years to find ways to gauge the hardships that students have had to overcome, and to predict which students will do well in college despite lower test scores. The new adversity score is meant to be one such gauge.

If so, we already know it doesn’t work. The College Board’s own data (see page 42) show that test scores and high school grades predict college performance about equally across all adversity levels. An exception is for students at the highest levels of adversity where, once again, their college GPA is slightly below expectations, not above.

In reality, there is no merit-based case for affirmative action in college admissions. Proponents should acknowledge that their chief interest is not merit, but social justice. “Diversity is so important to our schools and to broader society that lowering standards is a worthy price to pay,” they should declare. That would be a reminder that affirmative action – like all hotly-debated issues –involves inherent trade-offs, and it’s up to the public to decide how to weigh them.