Rich Immigrants

Paul Krugman and Chris Dillow both post interesting blog entries today, and

the intersection of the two is even more interesting, I think. Krugman notes

that London seems to be becoming

a "rentier city", where the global rich from Russia or India or

Arabia live off wealth made elsewhere. Dillow, meanwhile, notes that the African

soccer players for Arsenal FC are much more likely to encounter racism in Bucharest

than they are in London. Economic growth and success, he says, go hand

in hand with tolerance.

Global cities like New York and London certainly attract their share of poor

immigrants – but they also attract much more than their share of rich

immigrants. And in general, people are more likely to have racist attitudes

to those below them on the socio-economic ladder, as opposed to those above


When I was growing up in south London, I knew few Africans (as opposed to Caribbeans:

I lived very close to the vibrant Caribbean community in Brixton). But the Africans

I did know generally came from wealthy and well-educated families. Indeed, if

you include the Indians thrown out of Uganda by Idi Amin – a large number

of whom ended up in the UK – one can reasonably say that Africans living

in the UK have historically been some of the richest and most sophisticated

immigrants that the country has seen, if you exclude Krugman’s rentiers. If

you include Krugman’s rentiers, then it’s even clearer that rich immigrants

can be instrumental in improving prosperity.

This is one reason why the US should beef up its H visas for skilled immigrants

and generally be much more welcoming towards the global rich than it is today.

A lot of anti-immigrant feeling in the US is really aimed not at immigrants

in general so much as at poor immigrants in particular. (I’m an immigrant here

myself, and I certainly haven’t encountered anti-immigrant prejudice.)

If immigrants get richer, then the anti-immigrant right will naturally become


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