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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Thiago de Lucena (SDSU) Thiago de Lucena (SDSU)

Economics of Immigration Course to Cast Light on Consequences of Current Policies

Economic assimilation, impacts of native labor markets, and perceptions about immigrants and the welfare system will be discussed.
By Leslie L.J. Reilly

With its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, San Diego is no stranger to border and immigration policies and the impact on communities in the region.

In fall, Thiago de Lucena, an assistant professor of economics at San Diego State University, will help students examine U.S. immigration policy to learn about the intended and unintended consequences. 

“Given how passionate people are about migration-related discussions, it is hard to find a place where these discussions happen in a positive analytical manner,” de Lucena said. “In this course we will not be pointing fingers and saying ‘Immigration is good’ or ‘Immigration is bad’.”

The debate about the consequences of immigration for American workers is relevant. De Lucena hopes to engage students in thinking about why people migrate, what effects immigrants have on labor markets, and how first- and second-generation immigrants assimilate. 

Course readings will include works by scholar Giovanni Peri, University of California, Davis economics professor and co-author of "Immigration and the Economy of Cities and Regions," and a number of other publications on economics of international migration. Others include the writings of Harvard economics and immigration expert George Borjas, who wrote “Immigration Economics,” and “Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy”.

Class discussions will include national viewpoints and studies on immigration. A recent paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, “The Political Effects of Immigration: Culture or Economics?” by Alberto Alesina and Marco Tabellini finds: “The existing evidence suggests that immigrants often, but not always, trigger backlash, increasing support for anti-immigrant parties and lowering preferences for redistribution and diversity among natives.” 

De Lucena emigrated to the U.S. from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil seven years ago, which gave him first-hand knowledge and insight into acclimating to a newly adopted country. Learning about immigration through the lens of economic theory helped provide explanations for why he made the choice to move. “If I always agree 100% with these explanations, it's another story,” he said. In a university with a large number of first- and second-generation students, he hopes to make an impression.

“It might sound cliché but I believe that as an educator I play a key role in forming the citizens of tomorrow,” he said. “ In this sense, I just hope that this course contributes to clarifying misconceptions and to placing students in a better position to make choices about current and future immigration policies in the U.S.”