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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 5, 2020

Trump, Trade, and Immigration

Margaret E. Peters EMAIL logo
From the journal The Forum


President Trump campaigned on “making America great again” through trade and immigration restrictions. I argue that it is difficult for policymakers to restrict both trade and immigration because of trade’s effects on business support for immigration. When trade is restricted, more low-skill intensive goods are made in the US, leading to more demand for low-skill immigration from businesses. As businesses are relatively powerful, we should expect immigration to open. Conversely, when trade opens, fewer low-skill intensive goods are made in the US, leading to the closure of the firms that produce these goods. This reduces demand for low-skill labor and, with it, the demand for low-skill immigration. As business demand for immigration recedes, policymakers restrict immigration to appease anti-immigrant groups. Using data on immigration and trade in the US, I show that this relationship has held over US history. At the end of the article I hypothesize several reasons why Trump’s tariffs are not leading to more demand for immigration due to their limited effects on trade and the job market.


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Published Online: 2020-03-05

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