Column: Good research illuminates, not supports, one’s opinion

A recent study by the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation sheds a great deal of light on the sausage mill of policy research and the courage and integrity of the process of policy research altogether.

The Heritage study itself estimated that during the next 50 years, the relaxing of immigration rules in the U.S. would cost taxpayers trillions of dollars. The study was performed by a recent Harvard doctorate and a former federal budget official. From what I can tell, given the assumptions the authors used, the calculations are about right, but policy studies are not solely about calculations.

For example, the study calculated that increased legalization of immigrants would be a huge budget windfall for more than a decade. Had they looked a decade, or even two or three decades out, it was clear that immigrants were a huge fiscal boon. This is pretty much what every other economist who has studied the matter has also concluded. So, the study generated an intense round of criticism, some of which was well-deserved.

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