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Have U.S. Gun Buyback Programs Misfired?

September 6, 2023

There are 1.2 guns for every person in the United States, and the total number of firearms in circulation is estimated to be over 393 million. Gun violence is the leading cause of death among young men aged 15–19, and firearms are involved in 51 percent of completed suicides and 73 percent of all homicides. The link between the supply of firearms and gun violence has been the subject of intense debate among policymakers and academics studying the economics of crime. To limit the supply of firearms in circulation, a number of U.S. cities have implemented gun buyback programs (GBPs). GBPs use public funds to purchase civilians' privately owned firearms. We examined the effect of GBPs and found no evidence that they reduce gun crime.

Improving Youth Online Safety without Sacrificing Privacy and Speech

June 20, 2023

Policymakers at state and federal levels have called for regulation of social media and other technology for children and teenagers. Many in the public are worried about young people being exposed to harmful content, the effect of social media on teenage mental health, and the amount of time young people are spending on new technology. Yet regulations are being proposed (and in some cases have been enacted) that would use blunt tactics that raise serious issues for the privacy and speech of children, teens, and adults and fail to address the proponents' often well‐intentioned concerns even truly.

Why Legal Immigration Is Nearly Impossible: U.S. Legal Immigration Rules Explained

June 13, 2023

America traditionally had few immigration restrictions, but since the 1920s, the law has banned most aspiring immigrants. Today, fewer than 1 percent of people who want to move permanently to the United States can do so legally. Immigrants cannot simply get an exception to immigrate any more than restaurateurs in the 1920s could simply get an exception to sell alcohol. Instead, just as Prohibition granted only a few exemptions for religious, industrial, or medical uses of alcohol, people seeking an exception to immigration prohibition must also fit into preexisting carve‐outs for a select few.This study provides a uniquely comprehensive, jargon‐free explanation of U.S. rules for legal permanent immigration. Some steps are simple and reasonable, but most steps serve only as unjustified obstacles to immigrating legally. For some immigrants, this restrictive system sends them into the black market of illegal immigration. For others, it sends them to other countries, where they contribute to the quality of life in their new homes. And for still others, it requires them to remain in their homeland, often underemployed and sometimes in danger. Whatever the outcome, the system punishes both the prospective immigrants and Americans who would associate, contract, and trade with them. Congress and the administration can do better, and this paper explains how.

Coordinating Humanitarian Entry in the United States and Mexico: A Bilateral Approach to U.S. Legal Migration

June 1, 2023

Mexico and the United States have stated a joint interest in reducing illegal immigration through Mexico to the U.S.-Mexican border. Both countries are signatories of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, which pledges a coordinated multilateral approach to addressing migration, and Mexico has worked with the United States on its enforcement efforts, accepting returns from the United States. One untapped area of potential coordination is in each nation's authorization for migrants to temporarily enter their countries for humanitarian reasons.Unfortunately, the lack of coordination has meant that many migrants travel through Mexico and congregate in northern Mexico near the U.S.-Mexican border to try to obtain humanitarian entry into the United States. A better approach would be for Mexico to issue cards for visitors for humanitarian reasons at the Guatemalan‐Mexican border, allowing migrants to travel to Mexico City, where they could apply for U.S. parole and fly directly to the United States legally.

Expand Access to Primary Care: Remove Barriers to Assistant Physicians

April 24, 2023

Not enough physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other clinicians are entering the health care workforce to meet the growing primary care needs of Americans. More primary care clinicians need to enter the health care workforce to replace those health care providers who are retiring and to meet the demands of a growing and aging population. A major factor contributing to the clinician dearth is that states generally require physicians to complete a residency program, yet the number of medical school graduates exceeds the number of residency positions. One option that helps ease the deficiency in some states is allowing U.S. and international medical school graduates who have yet to complete a residency program to become assistant physicians (APs) and provide primary care services. However, there are many government‐imposed restrictions and barriers that impede these graduates from becoming APs.States should lift barriers that prevent unmatched medical school graduates from providing primary care services. States also should offer the AP option to licensed foreign physicians who wish to immigrate to the United States. States further should amend their licensing laws to allow experienced APs to use their experience as an alternative pathway toward a full medical license. Legalizing APs would help solve the primary care shortage.

Streamlining to End Immigration Backlogs

April 20, 2023

America's legal immigration system is inefficient; the multidepartmental division of authority, duplicative reviews, antiquated technology use, outdated bureaucratic procedures, unresponsive customer service, intense and unwarranted skepticism applied to all applicants, and lack of accountability or oversight have no parallel in the federal government. These deficiencies have spawned spiraling backlogs, unimaginable wait times, lawsuits by applicants, and countless mistakes—all of which cost people time, money, and the rights to live, work, and join their families.This paper will focus on agencies other than the Department of Justice, which almost exclusively handles removal proceedings in immigration courts. The other agencies have a more significant role in legal immigration procedures.The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles the broadest range of requests: petitions by family or employer sponsors, work authorizations, adjustments of status inside the United States, and so on.The Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs ("State") processes applications for immigrant (or permanent) and nonimmigrant (or temporary) visas, both of which authorize travel to the United States.The Department of Labor (DOL) oversees wage and employment rules for most temporary and permanent visa programs.

The Fiscal Impact of Immigration in the United States

March 21, 2023

This paper presents two analyses: a measure of the historical fiscal impacts of immigrants from 1994 to 2018 and the projected long‐term fiscal impact of an additional immigrant and that immigrant's descendants. An individual's fiscal impact refers to the difference between the taxes that person paid and the benefits that person received over a given period. We use and compare two models for these analyses: the first follows the National Academy of Science's methodology as closely as possible and updates the data for more recent years (hereafter referred to as the Updated Model), and the second makes several methodological changes that we believe improve the accuracy of the final results (hereafter referred to as the Cato Model). The most substantial changes made in the Cato Model include correcting for a downward bias in the estimation of immigrants' future fiscal contributions identified by Michael Clemens in 2021, allocating the fiscal impact of U.S.-born dependents of immigrants to the second generation group, and using a predictive regression to assign future education levels to individuals who are too young to have completed their education. Immigrants have a more positive net fiscal impact than that of native‐born Americans in most scenarios in the Updated Model and in every scenario in the Cato Model, depending on how the costs of public goods are allocated.

Preferences for Firearms and Their Implications for Regulation

March 15, 2023

More than 40 percent of Americans reside in a household that contains at least one firearm. Combined, American civilians own roughly 400 million firearms. Both the popularity of firearms and the codification of the right to bear arms in the U.S. Constitution suggest that gun ownership confers substantial enjoyment to consumers in the United States. Although the vast majority of purchased firearms are not used in violent crime, the toll of gun-related injuries is high. In 2020, there were more than 45,000 gunrelated deaths in the United States. Our research develops a framework for evaluating gun policy that simultaneously respects the individual enjoyment of gun ownership and takes seriously the harm caused by guns.

Immigrant and Native Consumption of Means‐Tested Welfare and Entitlement Benefits in 2020

January 31, 2023

This brief updates previous Cato policy briefs on immigrant welfare consumption to supply more up‐to‐date information to policymakers and the public. Based on data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we find that immigrants consumed 27 percent less welfare and entitlement benefits than native‐born Americans on a per capita basis in 2020. Immigrants were 14.6 percent of the U.S. population and consumed just 11.1 percent of all means‐tested welfare and entitlement benefits in 2020. By comparison, immigrants consumed 21 percent less welfare and entitlement benefits in 2016 and 28 percent less in 2019. From 2016 to 2020, the underconsumption of welfare by immigrants relative to native‐born Americans widened by about 6 percentage points. From 2019 to 2020, the gap shrank only slightly, by 0.6 percentage points.

How Guest Workers Affect Illegal Immigration: Mexican Visas and Mexican Border Apprehensions, 1943–2022

December 1, 2022

This analysis tracks the history of guest worker programs and their rules as a policy to manage migration flows from Mexico. The most important lesson from this history is that the government can impose rules that make a guest worker program functionally unusable for employers and workers, resulting in illegal immigration. Caps on visas and limits on the types of jobs that the workers can perform inevitably cause illegal immigration to reappear. Wage regulations that artificially increase the cost of hiring far beyond market wages cause employers to seek to hire workers outside of the system. Any highly regulated guest worker program must resort to heavy‐handed enforcement measures to keep illegal immigration from spiraling out of control again.

Immigrant and Native Consumption of Means-Tested Welfare and Entitlement Benefits in 2019

March 30, 2022

Total government spending on the welfare state amounted to about $2.5 trillion in 2019. The federal government spent roughly $2.3 trillion in that year, an amount equal to approximately 51 percent of all federal outlays. About $1.7 trillion of federal expenditures went to Social Security and Medicare, and the other roughly $534 billion funded means‐tested welfare benefits. American states spent an additional $244 billion on means‐tested welfare programs in 2019. Based on data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we find that immigrants consume 28 percent less welfare and entitlement benefits than native‐born Americans on a per capita basis. By comparison, immigrants consumed 21 percent less welfare and entitlement benefits in 2016 on a per capita basis. From 2016 to 2019, the underconsumption of welfare by immigrants relative to native‐born Americans widened by about 7 percentage points.

The Case against COVID-19 Pandemic Migration Restrictions

February 1, 2022

The possibility that free migration could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 has caused many nations to enact severe restrictions on both international migration and domestic freedom of movement. Unfortunately, these restrictions have done little to stop the spread of the disease while inflicting enormous harm on hundreds of thousands of innocent people. In some respects, they even make the spread of disease worse. In the long run, migration restrictions also curtail the scientific and medical innovation that we need to protect against future pandemics and other health threats.This publication focuses primarily on restrictions on international movement by people seeking to take up long‐term residence in a new country rather than short‐term travelers, such as tourists or people on business trips. However, some of the points made also apply to the latter. This publication also does not examine the other nonpharmaceutical interventions that governments have enacted that may have reduced COVID‐19's spread or death toll, many of which may be correlated with different types of travel or migration restrictions. It will likely be years—if ever—before scholars understand how nonpharmaceutical interventions of all kinds, including migration and travel restrictions, affected COVID-19.