What Does the Center for Immigration Studies Consider to be “Exploitation”?

David North has a post on his blog at the Center for Immigration Studies titled, “CIS Gets an Offer We Will Refuse from a Bangladeshi Organization”. He explains that a recruiting agency had emailed a foreign recruiting firm, offering to pay his organization for finding employment for a worker sponsored by their agency and arranging for a visa.

He then says that, “In any case, it is highly unattractive, and is an indication of how badly nonimmigrant workers are treated in such cases, and how attractive they can be to exploitative U.S. employers”.

Yet these employers are offering employment to the workers in question, employment which generally pays far better than alternatives. Conversely, the U.S. government prevents workers from offering their labor at higher wages.

If “exploitation” actually has to do with harming workers, then it is clear who is really engaged in it.

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Could Zoning Laws Affect Political Outcomes and Marriage Rates?

From a Nathan Smith post on windfalls in land value from immigration (which I recommend), I found an interesting paper by George Hawley entitled “Home affordability, female marriage rates and vote choice in the 2000 US presidential election: Evidence from US counties”. Abstract:

This article tests the hypothesis that differences in the housing market can partially explain why some American counties are strongly Republican and others strongly Democratic, and that this phenomenon can be largely attributed to the relationship between home values and marriage rates within counties. Specifically, I test the hypothesis that, in the 2000 election, George W. Bush did comparatively better in counties with relatively affordable single-family homes, even when controlling for other economic, demographic and regional variables. Using county-level data, I test this hypothesis using spatial-lag regression models, and provide further evidence using individual-level survey data. My results indicate a statistically significant relationship between Bush’s percentage of the vote at the county level and the median value of owner-occupied homes, and that at least part of this is explained by the relationship between home values and marriage rates among young women.

The author finds that a $10,000 decrease in the median home price yielded an additional 0.3 percentage points for Bush in the 2000 election (so, a 0.6 point swing per $10,000). Although I have not reviewed the paper enough to determine whether I agree with its conclusion, it is at least interesting.

Given that zoning is often considered a factor in higher housing costs (see, for instance, Glaeser and Gyourko 2002), I wonder if restrictive zoning laws could have the impact of lowering marriage rates and making voters more leftist. Housing cost wedges can be quite large (in the hundreds of thousands of dollars sometimes), so the impact could be sizable. The difference between median owner-occupied housing prices in California and Texas, for instance, is $295,200 ($421,600 – $126,400). If California’s housing prices fell to those of Texas and the effect identified in the paper took place over time, there could be a 17.7 point swing in presidential elections in the favor of the Republican candidate (0.6 times 29.52)! Rough extrapolations are what they are, and certainly not all of the housing price gap is due to zoning, but the effect could be large.

Some types of zoning encourage rather than discourage sprawl (such as free parking mandates), and eliminating those might have contrary effects if they induce more people to live in cities. Nevertheless, zoning could still be a significant factor in political outcomes.

Concealed Carry License Fees: The Case for Abolition

Currently, all states in the US offer some type of public license to carry concealed weapons (although, in practice, some states rarely grant such licenses). Licenses generally come with fees in the $50-$100 range; for exact details, see this list of state laws on the matter.

However, are concealed carry license (CCL) fees actually an efficient policy? It doesn’t seem so. The marginal cost to the issuing authority of granting a permit is essentially just the cost of paperwork, and is very close to zero. Training costs, in states with training requirements, are imposed upon the applicant, and so are not part of the marginal cost of the issuing authority.

Of course, the next concern would be the social costs and benefits of issuing concealed carry permits. The primary social costs and benefits in this case are the impacts of concealed carry laws on crime rates. There is substantial debate on this issue, sparked in large part by the Journal of Legal Studies paper “Crime, Deterrence and the Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns” by John Lott and David Mustard, and by the various editions of Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime.

However, the debate over effects on crime rates is almost completely between those claiming that concealed carry reduces crime, and those who claim it has little or no effect. As noted in the paper “Trust But Verify: Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy” (page 3):

There have been a total of 29 peer reviewed studies by economists and criminologists, 18 supporting the hypothesis that shall-issue laws reduce crime, 10 not finding any significant effect on crime, including the NRC report, and [Aneja, Donohue, and Zhang]’s paper, using a different model and different data, finding that right-to-carry laws temporarily increase one type of violent crime, aggravated assaults.

Note: There was a footnote marker at the end of the phrase “including the NRC report”, which corresponded with a footnote reading: “Although one member of the Council concluded that the NRC’s own results indicated that shall-issue laws reduced murder.” This refers to James Q. Wilson’s dissent in a National Research Council report on the matter; the latter did not find discernible effects on crime rates.

In fact, John Donohue, a major opponent of the Lott-Mustard hypothesis on concealed carry, said in the Chronicle of Higher Education that, “No scholars now claim that legalizing concealed weapons causes a major increase in crime”. (The link here is paywalled, but the quotation has been cited in numerous other places.)

Given all this, it appears that the social cost of issuing CCLs is either negative (if concealed carry reduces the costs of crime) or zero (if it has no effect). Furthermore, the private marginal cost of issuance is nearly zero.

And the private benefits of CCL issuance are also substantial. There are roughly 8 million active permits as of recent, and revealed preference tells us that concealed carriers value having licenses. Political lobbying for expanded carrying rights is another sign that many people value the right to carry guns.

In summary: The relatively high fees imposed on concealed carry licenses are a case of inefficient monopoly pricing, and, under a traditional welfare analysis, should be abolished or possibly even made negative to account for social benefits of concealed carrying. This also tells us that the current number of people licensed to carry guns is below the optimal level.