The third and final conference in AEI's investigation of international competitiveness focused on high-skilled immigrants and the potential of immigration policies to affect a country's competitiveness. Gordon Hanson, a professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego, began by presenting the highlights of his paper investigating this issue. In keeping with the previous conferences, he proposed his own definition of national "competitiveness" as a country's ability to capture market share. He concluded based on available data that the immigration of high-skilled workers, such as those with doctorates, is undoubtedly a positive influence on the overall economy . Hanson added that the net effect of low-skilled immigration on the overall economy is far less significant than the importance of attracting high-skilled labor. Barry Chiswick, a professor and chair of the Department of Economics at George Washington University, cited on a broad range of literature, including several AEI publications, to build on the potential problems with low-skilled immigration. He reinforced the importance of high-skilled immigration and emphasized that the United States remains competitive in this area despite its immigration policies, not because of them. Finally, he left the audience with a resounding policy challenge that the United States will have to face in the years to come.
Politicians often call for actions to enhance U.S. competitiveness and chide their political rivals for pursuing policies contrary to that purpose. Meanwhile, segments of the academic community have largely written off national competitiveness as meaningless. Economist Paul Krugman went so far as to say that "the obsession with competitiveness is not only wrong but dangerous." In light of the academic challenge to the notion of competitiveness, AEI has gathered experts to research the value of the concept of competitiveness in different spheres.
High-skilled immigration is one area where the concept of competitiveness may be quite valuable, as immigration policies have the potential to affect a country's competitiveness. How does the United States fare in the global competition for talent, and what policy changes could tip the scales in the United States' favor? This AEI conference will be the last of a three-part series; papers from the series will be published as an AEI book this fall.