October 10, 2018

Niskanen Immigration Policy Brief: The Diversity Visa



This brief (available here) examines the oft-maligned Diversity Visa in the context of merit-based and growth-oriented immigration. The program is often seen as one that should be ended in a shift toward a more merit-based system. This brief argues that this conventional wisdom is misguided. Far from undermining a merit-based and growth-oriented immigration system, the Diversity Visa program itself does select for merit and contributes to growth. Diversity-based immigration should thus be considered an important component of an immigration system designed to foster economic growth.

As to merit, the brief looks at the skill levels of actual immigrants who obtained green cards on the basis of the Diversity Visa program. It finds that, contrary to popular perception, diversity immigrants have higher skill levels than other immigrants and than native-born Americans.

As to growth, the brief presents new evidence that diversity immigration encourages high-skilled migration through other channels too—that more DV immigration from a country is associated with higher migration of high-skilled temporary workers from that country in the future.  The brief also reviews the literature on the spillover economic effects of immigrant diversity. That literature overwhelmingly supports the notion that immigrant diversity promotes growth, innovation, employment, and other positive economic outcomes.