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The Real Immigration Crisis

The Problem Is Not Too Many, but Too Few

Abandoned row houses in Baltimore, May 2019 Stephanie Keith / Reuters

Opponents of immigration are ascendant. From Poland to the United States, politicians are shutting borders and turning away refugees. “Our Country is FULL!” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted in April. But misplaced fears over security, slow assimilation, and stolen jobs have distracted from the real demographic crisis looming over Europe and North America: not one of too many immigrants but one of too few.

The next several decades will see populations in Europe and North America age and shrink as people have fewer and fewer children. That trend will hurt economic growth and dynamism and leave too few workers for every retiree. Robots and artificial intelligence will not save rich countries from the economic consequences of a shrinking population. Nor, without a dramatic reversal of current policies toward immigrants, will a flow of workers from elsewhere. To avoid sclerosis and decline, the rich world will have to compete to

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