They’ll never get old and gray

The New York Times has an article about work by researchers at Harvard Medical School, which concluded that immigrants are a net plus for the finances of Medicare – even though most of the immigrants in the current wave have low incomes.

Of course those immigrants are on average young, and don’t get sick much. What about costs over the entire life cycle, which is of course what you would look at if you were trying to get the right answer? Well, judging from current trends, those young workers are pretty likely to get older as time passes. Since they have low incomes, but age and die just as expensively as anyone else, they’re not likely to be a net financial plus for Medicare. Or so it would seem.

We can’t go around accusing Ivy League types of lying. Perhaps they have different models of the future. For example, if we came to have self-replicating perfect autodocs that work on wall current, people wouldn’t age any more, and medical expenses would be a trivial fraction of GNP. This is sure to happen eventually – you can reduce entropy with enthalpy. Maybe the world will end before these guys get old – either through a cleansing asteroid strike, alien conquest, or a robot takeover. Or, maybe they intend to shoot these workers when they slow down, presumably charging the relatives for the bullet. It’s been known to happen.

I think we need to understand more about their assumptions, in order to make better policy decisions. Maybe they know something I don’t.

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62 Responses to They’ll never get old and gray

  1. Ziel says:

    That was a pretty funny example of the classic bizarro-world NYT article in which all anyone ever hears is how Hispanics are a big drain on the treasury but these Harvard professors brilliant study overthrows the conventional wisdom and validates the heroic efforts of the underdog Gang of 8 to usher in immigration reform against all odds for the sake of our future.

  2. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    The study refutes the idea that immigrants are a burden. It makes no assumption at all about the future. The future is unknowable and projections are futile,

    If you force it, you could assume that the immigrants will have enough children to keep the system financially balanced. Maybe immigration is a self reinforcing system and will continue indefinitely. May the world is finite and the end is near.

    • soren says:

      “The study refutes the idea that immigrants are a burden. It makes no assumption at all about the future.”

      Only for a government program that primarily pays out to old people… if they’re not going make projections about the future, they’re wasting their time announcing the obvious unless it’s for propaganda purposes.

      “If you force it, you could assume that the immigrants will have enough children to keep the system financially balanced.”

      If they start having children, they’ll eat up more cash out of Medicaid among many other government programs.

      “If you force it, you could assume that the immigrants will have enough children to keep the system financially balanced.”

      Maybe citizens would if the easy immigration outlet was’t used.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      If you force it, you could assume that the immigrants will have enough children to keep the system financially balanced.

      However, their contribution to the economy, except through spending our money, is likely to be negligible.

      I would rather spend my own money.

    • Pincher Martin says:

      “The study refutes the idea that immigrants are a burden. It makes no assumption at all about the future. The future is unknowable and projections are futile…”

      You’re just babbling.

      If the future is truly unknowable, then the study can’t possibly refute something about the future. Perhaps most of the newly-minted citizens those Harvard researchers thought would contribute to Medicare actually go on welfare and unemployment instead. Perhaps long-term unemployment in the United States rises to the level of Spain, forcing most of them into government dependency.

      You know, because as you said, the future is unknowable.

    • tractal says:

      Please explain what its like to have your brain.

  3. Ziel says:

    BTW I got the Fastball reference – keep it lowbrow and I’ve got a chance

  4. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    “Maybe citizens would if the easy immigration outlet was’t used.”

    I’d love to believe it, but there is not a shred of evidence they would. I could list a number of pronatalist measures, but you would not like it: forbid the Pill, condoms; no abortions, persecute atheists; State financed religious schools; no vote for females; abolish divorce laws and courts, restricted Social Security for voluntarily childless, etc. No, you will not do it.

    • rightsaidfred says:

      So you think immigration is a reasonable replacement for a natalist policy? This strikes me as advocating for raising the cuckoo’s egg. I’ve never seen this end well, but maybe turning the Titanic TOWARD the iceberg would have been a successful strategy. Who knows? It wasn’t tried.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Affordable family formation.
      Immigration increases housing costs, unemployment etc so immigration makes native fertility worse.

    • Bill says:

      I’d do that stuff in a heartbeat. Can we have blue laws back, too?

  5. Cresthill says:

    You have a very unrealistic view of near-future technology…

  6. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    I have a realistic view of your will to employ it…

  7. Jim says:

    Given the costs of educating their children, their use of emergency rooms to get free medical care, the Medicaid costs, the costs of incarceration, their frequent failure to obtain auto insurance coverage etc., it is impossible for me to believe that they make a net positve contribution to the economy at present quite aside from the massive accrued liability for their future retirement and old age medical costs.
    But even if we were talking about only the immigration of high IQ people we are talking about an endless exponential Ponzi scheme. This is nuts.

    • The welfare state IS a Ponzi scheme, how endless or exponential depends on the ability to produce or recruit young people with net positive economic contributions that outweigh the expenses of supporting the oldsters. There’s a number of hard-to-predict demographic and economic variables that the NYT article blithely ignores.

  8. @Jim Educating children is offset by the future value of their children’s contribution to the economy. (That’s why all sane countries have free public schools and mandatory schooling.) Immigrants in general get incarcerated less frequently than native-born Americans, they are not a heavy drain on Medicaid because they are mostly young, and, if you’re going to count the use of emergency rooms for medical care, use the actual cost of services rendered (30 minutes of time of a $15/hr nurse, 10 minutes of time of a $20/hr medical resident, and 50c worth of pills per visit, and let’s call it 1 visit per year), not the obscene amounts that ERs bill uninsured patients based on their arbitrary fee schedules.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Of course, in practice, in this country, right now, immigrants are not smart and have limited education. I guess they can always get jobs in the Chicago stockyards or the steel mills of Pittsburgh.

    • erica says:

      The cost of housing illegal aliens in CA prisons.

      Of course, there are many of these thugs who escape incarceration and remain on the streets. Others are arrested and let go because the stupids , sanctuary idiotic cities (SF, famously) who claim they keep the ones suspected of committing felonies…but they lie.

      Please, come visit our junior highs and high schools. The gang members don’t regularly attend to get an education…just enough to cause trouble. They hail from Mexico, Nicaragua, some from Guatemala. Wonderful, wonderful people.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      “Immigrants in general get incarcerated less frequently than native-born Americans”
      But that still adds to the total amount of crime in the country. If we let in 100,000 immigrants, and only ten of them commit murders, yeah, that’s lower than the native rate, but that’s still ten more murders than the country would have had without letting them in. One would think that this would be self-evident.

    • ziel says:

      “Immigrants in general get incarcerated less frequently than native-born Americans”

      That, at first blush, sounds like one thing, but then when you think about it for 2 seconds, clearly means another.

      The unstated slogan of the open-borders crowd is “Mexican Immigrants – they’re not as bad as you-know-who!”

    • Discard says:

      “Immigrants in general get incarcerated less frequently than native-born Americans…”
      First off, which immigrants? If you don’t sort out the Haitians from the Mexicans from the Koreans, your numbers are worthless.
      Second, which Americans? Again, if you don’t sort out the Blacks from the Mexican-Americans from the Whites, your numbers are worthless.

    • Anonymous says:

      Immigrants in general get incarcerated less frequently than native-born Americans

      Which apparently explains the overwhelming immigrant-richness of this list:

  9. mtraven says:

    Forget the autodocs, unless someone invents an auto-lettuce-picker and auto-day-laborer the immigrants aren’t going to go away. Will the economic benefit of using this cheap labor justify the eventual cost of supporting the same people once they are old and gray? Hard to say, but it doesn’t matter, since the shitwork these people do is necessary and Americans don’t seem very interested in doing it.

    • TWS says:

      I don’t know why don’t we try the wacky idea of deporting the people keeping the wages artificially deflated? Weird how Americans used to do the job. Maybe we could send them home when they did the work? Why not enforce the laws we have now?

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Why would anyone invent an auto lettuce picker if there is unlimited supply of cheap labor?

      Innovation is driven by labor shortage.

      • east hunter says:

        would be nice to see some real innovation out of silicon valley, such as robots to pick broccoli, instead of yet-another-way to post inanities to our friends.

        i understand WHY silicon valley is focused on the spurious (why go after hard projects when you can do easy ones for ludicrous payouts) but that doesn’t make it socially useful activity.

        and to think – the salinas valley is just a short drive from silicon valley. both united in advocacy for immigration reforms, with orthogonal objectives.

        in an immigration-restricted environment, the farmers wouldn’t even have to expend effort to contact one of the deepest pools of engineering talent in the world, and yet we are expected to believe their problems can only be solved through mass-legalization.

      • banned56 says:

        I’m pro- White Americans. Therefore, I do not eat lettuce. I get my crunchies from the sprouts I sprout myself from seeds. I believe I’m morally consistent, as grain harvesting is done by combine with no need for mestizo stoop laborers, and I assume alfalfa sprout seed harvesting is also done by combine. Am I correct in this?

    • Discard says:

      When I was a young fellow, I used to do shit work. Who do you think harvested the crops and drilled endless holes in sheet metal and re-roofed houses 40 years ago? Shit work paid a dumb kid more than flipping burgers, and you could get a different job every week if you got bored.

    • Sideways says:

      Yeah, who could imagine a lettuce harvesting machine?

  10. @Gregory The point of the study is that, in an imaginary world without immigrants, the system would be running a deficit NOW, because natives are aging and below replacement fertility, and would run out of money much sooner. Yes, it’s possible that current immigrants would be a net drain on the system over their lifetimes, but their existence allows the system to continue running for quite a while, in essence, kicking the can down the road 30 years or more (the median Hispanic immigrant alive today would start collecting his/her Medicare benefits in 2051).

    Medicare depends on a stable age structure matters as much as on a high-income taxpayer population. Its solvency is a function of the number of workers per retiree, times average contribution per worker.

    • gcochran9 says:

      FICA receipts for 2011: 1085 billion dollars.

      FICA receipts from illegals in the US: about 7 billion dollars. 7 is smaller – a good deal smaller – than 1085. You might even call it insignificant.

      There are a lot of illegals, and if any low-income people are paying in more than they cost, it would be them. Citizens are eligible for far more benefits.

      • TWS says:

        Thank you Gregory for putting this in some kind of perspective. It is obvious we do not need the immigrants, legal or illegal. So many of the better off are screwing the left side of the bell curve by stealing their chance at honest work they can understand that I almost believe it is deliberate. I know it is simply greed but millions of Americans are denied a decent paying job. These same jobs have the wages deflated by illegals sure, however, the fact they are easier to hire, fire, and lack of other oversight makes hiring illegals even more enticing when all you care about is very short term gain.

        I worked in construction and I don’t know how many times we had to follow an illegal crew that completely screwed up a job. But they were cheaper and easier to hire for the short term and if they didn’t screw up too bad the general could have just papered over the problems and cruddy workmanship. Sure two three years down the road something would go wrong but by then the general had moved on to another place.

        Wow, sorry for the long rant.

  11. Jim says:

    There is no necessary reason why the present value of future taxes collected from the future earnings of the immigrant children has to exceed the costs of educating them and given their low IQ’s it is not likely. It costs roughly $10,000 per year to educate a child in the Detroit public schools. Do you seriously believe that the taxes on the future earnings of these children when adults will pay for their education? Many of them will be incarcerated or become permanently dependent on welfare. Detroit is a third world hell-hole because of the low IQ of its population.
    Of course the welfare state is toast but the idea that unskilled laborers with an average IQ of about 90 will save it is fantasy.

    • rightsaidfred says:

      the idea that unskilled laborers with an average IQ of about 90 will save it [the welfare state] is fantasy.


      I wonder where the idea of immigrant as superman arose. I don’t see many examples from the current crop; mostly the opposite; e.g Muhammad Atta in a plane. I’d say it arises from the notion that an expert is someone 50 miles from home who looks different than the locals.

      Above there was a note about needing immigrants to pick crops. How many do we need for this? There are hardly more than 200,000 farm workers in these areas, yet we are importing millions. Better to import the lettuce.

      • east hunter says:

        case in point on why people think immigration is good – see kleiner perkins state of the internet 2013 – slide 87 – “60% of top 25 tech companies founded by 1st and 2nd generation americans.” this is an overbroad determination – “one of the founders” versus “the key founder” but it makes a point.

        why this means we should legalize 11 million day laborers is beyond me, but since we’re not allowed to talk about selective immigration, the argument gets dumbed down to be pro-immigration / anti-immigration.

      • Discard says:

        Los Angeles has about two million Mexicans. How many of them are farm workers?

      • Matt says:

        case in point on why people think immigration is good – see kleiner perkins state of the internet 2013 – slide 87 – “60% of top 25 tech companies founded by 1st and 2nd generation americans.” this is an overbroad determination – “one of the founders” versus “the key founder” but it makes a point.

        Curiously even people who understand statistics and HBD enough to understand that immigrants are not a homogenous clump often fall into the fallacy that this kind of phenomenon is due to some large sized group of immigrants of some particular ethnic background having a high mean in “entrepreneurialism” (or intelligence) but a totally typical skew and SD.

        That the distribution of educational qualifications of say, for example, East Asian migrants is extremely large, while their IQ is about typical for East Asians (and similar for other Asian migrants subgroup although their mean tends to be more impressive than the nation of their birth), seems to escape notice.

        Although not as extreme, it is as if they would think German rocket scientists in the USA after World War II was because Germans had a particularly high population mean ability in the innate and underlying tendencies which allow persons to develop rocket science ability (which they no doubt do compared to most nations of the world, and possibly even to the White American average, but this is not the “why” of it) ….

  12. Key quote, Greg: “Perhaps they have different models of the future.” Yes, they aren’t in it anymore, and they don’t care. Their point is that this works for Harvard professors now. And if one has no children or – gasp – grandchildren, what matters what happens after? Caring deeply about carbon takes up all their forward thinking. You want them to care about whther people are poor, too?

    I am not certain that the numbers work even now, but am granting it to them arguendo.

  13. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    rightsaidfred says:
    May 30, 2013 at 9:27 am
    So you think immigration is a reasonable replacement for a natalist policy?


  14. Discard says:

    Do not believe any statistics showing Mexican educational improvement. The education industry lies.
    As part of my teacher credentialing hoop-jumping, I was sent to a large high school with an almost exclusively Mexican clientele. Part of my assignment was to look at a bunch of internal documents. The school officially admitted to a dropout rate of twenty-something percent. However, their grade pyramid said otherwise. The grade pyramid is a graph showing how many students were in each grade. If you’ve got 1000 9th graders, 800 10th graders, 600 11th graders, 400 twelfth graders, and 200 kids passing the high school exit exam, you’ve got an 80% dropout rate. In the case of the school I was sent to, they actually graduated about ten percent of their kids. Having learned the game, I looked up my own high school, and saw that one out of eight kids graduated.
    All social statistics that do not sort by race are lies, intended to conceal the failures amongst the successes. All social statistics that do sort by race are probably lies, concealing failure by simply lying. You have to do your own math.

  15. RS says:

    > I am not certain that the numbers work even now, but am granting it to them arguendo.

    You probably shouldn’t. Let us grant arguendo Kuznetsov’s claim that ER visits usually aren’t too expensive in actual reality. It remains that lower-IQ immigrants have roughly 2.5 to three kids in a family, so it costs — now — 1/3 to 1/2 a million to educate them through the tenth or twelfth grade.

    This does not sound like much of a net-taxmaking operation, even when you set Medicare aside.

    Of course, one could just look at the fact that states/locales with low White/Asian population fraction are pretty bankrupt, but that would be too simple.

  16. Jim says:

    The use of emergency rooms for routine care is more than a matter of cost. Clogging them up with routine care cases lessens their ability to deal with true emergencies such as massive injuries from automobile accidents.

  17. Florida resident says:

    I agree with W.H. Regnery,
    that “Right ” should defend Richwine. On the other hand, Richwine is not an angel.

    I spent about 10 raw hours of reading Richwine’s dissertation, and read it in full.
    Chapters 1 through 6 are excellent;
    they contain very serious analysis of IQ in general and
    of IQ for particular cohorts of immigrants.

    I learned something that I did not understand previously;
    namely, that different IQ tests may have different g-loading,
    and potential relevance of this to Flynn-effect.

    Chapter 7 is called “IQ Selection as Policy,” pp. 123-134.
    On the bottom of p. 126 he writes:
    [ … ] For purposes of this discussion, it is sufficient to say that philosophers have identified both the welfare of the nation and the welfare of potential immigrants as important considerations. Intuitively this conforms to how most Americans view immigration policy. They want a policy that helps themselves, helps other Americans, and helps foreigners, each to varying degrees.
    I [i.e. Richwine] propose the general principle that conforms to that desire. The US should first define exactly what it wants for itself from its immigration policy. Then, design a selection system that meets those goals, while still providing substantial benefits to potential immigrants. In mathematical terms, the US should maximize the welfare of its immigrants, subject to the constraint that the selection system meets the country’s own goals. Literally optimizing this abstract objective function is probably not possible, but it is a worthy ideal to work toward. [ … ]
    So, he forgets about the preamble to US Constitution (hat tip to Sailer) ,

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    Nothing is said in the “Preamble” about welfare of immigrants, and everything about
    “ourselves and our Posterity”.

    The rest of Richwine’s Chapter 7 is in the same style:
    the principle is “US should maximize the welfare of its immigrants,”
    while “the country’s own goals” are considered only as
    “constraint that the selection system meets …” !!!

    I wonder if Richwine’s wife considers the principle of their family life as
    and the family own goals just as the “constraints” ?!?

    Besides that, in his desire to invite about 1 million of sub-Saharan Africans with IQ greater than 115 [top of page 131]
    he pretends to have never heard about the notion of “regression to the group’s mean”.

    • Florida resident says:

      Text of Richwine’s dissertation:

    • Soxy says:

      Will regression to mean prevent dysgenics.

      • Florida resident says:

        Dear Soxy:
        Can you kindly elaborate your statement ?
        Your F.r.

      • John Wilson says:

        Regression to the mean should not “cause” or “prevent” anything in nature – as it’s nothing more than an artifact of measurement error, i.e., measurement is less reliable at the extremes.

      • Florida resident says:

        Dear Joe Wilson:
        To the best of my very humble understanding,

        “regression to the group’s mean” in genetics

        is the following.

        You have a group of subjects, humans or animals, with certain multitude of genes, and there is variety of genes in the population (I do not like to use the cliché “diversity” of genes, but that exactly what it is.) By the very sense of variety, not all possible genes are present in any given subject (except for the case of monoclonal population of mice.)

        Observable trait (phenotype, IQ in the example under the discussion) of an individual may be result of the combination of genetic influences and of environmental influences.
        For the sake of discussion let us assume that the high value 115 (i.e. 3 Standard deviations above the group’s mean 70) of IQ of the individual is due to very rare favorable combination of genes.

        Only half of this bright parent’s genes will be transmitted to individual’s child. Then extra question arises if this individual will chose a mate (i.e. a spouse) with equally high IQ, or a mate with IQ at the level of group’s median. Since so many details can influence the probabilities of the child’s outcome (e.g. dominant, or recessive, or non-Mendelian at all, heredity), I will not attempt to calculate them.

        To make long story short, larger chances are that the children will have lower IQ, and after several generations will be close to the group’s mean, 70 in the example under consideration.

        A friend of mine likes to use the phrase:
        “Nature likes to take a rest on children”,
        jokingly meaning as if it took a lot of efforts by the Nature to overrule entropy and to create outstanding parent in the first place. Since that phrase was aimed at me, I did not like it, but had to admit its empirical validity.
        Your truly, F.r.

      • Florida resident says:

        Sorry for calling John Wilson by “Joe Wilson”

    • melendwyr says:

      “The rest of Richwine’s Chapter 7 is in the same style:
      the principle is “US should maximize the welfare of its immigrants,”
      while “the country’s own goals” are considered only as
      “constraint that the selection system meets …” !!!”

      Yeah, what’s the problem here? All else being equal, it makes sense to increase the welfare of immigrants. But achieving other goals (like addressing the welfare of citizens first) takes precedence.

      Taking no one in, in order to benefit those already here, is perfectly consistent with Richwine’s proposal. Presumably it would be the result if your personal beliefs and goals were used as the criteria. So… what are you objecting to?

      • Florida resident says:

        Dear melendwyr:
        Thank you for your reaction.
        You wrote:
        “Yeah, what’s the problem here? All else being equal, …”.

        To the best of my humble experience (more than half a century),
        “all else” is never being equal.
        I will try to elaborate later, but you may read John Derbyshire,
        Your truly, F.r.

      • melendwyr says:

        I can see that I wasn’t sufficiently clear, Florida resident. Permit me to restate:
        *Once society’s goals have been met*, it makes sense to increase the welfare of immigrants.
        Did the change in ordering, and the little stars, make the emphasis clearer to you? Have you recognized that the statement is basic common sense? Are you willing to acknowledge that what you’re complaining about would be putting immigrants’ welfare *before* the other goals of society, which is the opposite of what Richwine was saying?

      • Florida resident says:

        Dear melendwyr:

        Let me give an example that probably will be clearer to the participants of this discussion. There is (nowadays famous) mathematician-genius, Grigoriy Perelman. He apparently has proven the century-known Problem in Mathematics: Poincare Hypothesis; was awarded for it with Fields medal (analog of Nobel Prize for mathematicians), and for some reasons has refused to accept it.

        Now, if someone (e.g. God) would have said to me 25 years ago: here is the prodigy in mathematics; he needs your support, I probably would try to support him in some or other way.

        But if the alternative would have been like this: I take this prodigy in my house, and supply our family resources for his education and promotion, deflecting a noticeable part of the resources from educating and promoting my own kids (who definitely are not as talented in Mathematics, as Perelman is), I would NOT have done this. Even if some God would tell me that without such my actions the Poincare Hypothesis would not be solved for the next millennium,
        still I would put the interests of my own family, of my own kids, and the question of their admission to good Universities,
        ahead of interests of non-relative prodigy.
        [Thank God, my kids got their Ph.D.s already.]
        This definitely would NOT MEAN THAT I HATE Grigoriy Perelman, or do not care of his welfare. Nevertheless, I would put my own family interests ahead.

        Respectfully, Florida resident.

      • Florida resident says:

        Dear melendwyr:
        Have you actually read Chapter 7 of Richwine’s dissertation ?
        I did.
        So did John Derbyshire,
        Respectfully, F.r.

      • melendwyr says:

        That *is what Richwine was talking about*. What you’re in favor of is what Richwine advocated. What you seem to be complaining about is what Richwine did not advocate. So, for the last time: what are you objecting to? (And how have you managed to get through life with such awful reading comprehension?)

        Disrespectfully, melendwyr.

      • Florida resident says:

        I am glad to share my deficiency in reading comprehension with John Derbyshire,
        see reference above.

  18. Pingback: Traditionalist Youth Hour: Interview of Johnny Jihad on Syria | Traditionalist Youth Network

  19. John Warren Wilson says:

    Greg – your cousin Warren here. Fascinating work you’re doing and I want to read your book and all of your posts. I read everything that comes out in the press about genetic studies on populations and prehistoric DNA, and I may have some questions for you after I get a chance to catch up on your work, which I was not aware of until recently. Congratulations on your success and accomplishments.

    More immediate though – I’ve been working with Tom Cochran to put together a lot of family photos. Diane might have forwarded the first wave, and I have some more. Second, I’m working to set up a Cochran Family and descendants listserv, and I’d definitely like to get you on the list. Please drop me a line at

    John (Warren) Wilson

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