Immigration and the Environment: U.S. and Europe


Recently, the Center’s Julie Axelrod urged the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Natural Resources to assess the environmental impact of immigration. I strongly support this plea. In the Netherlands, where I am an emeritus professor of economics, the argument carries even more weight.

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, and since the strong drop in the national birth rate, all population growth is due to immigration. The high density has led to a “battle for land”, as a competition among conflicting types of utilization, such as residential and business construction, agriculture, nature, and recreation. The problem has been neglected for decades, and the political disagreements have now led to a disturbing stalemate.

In my new book, The Political Economy of Immigration in The Netherlands: Population, Land and Welfare, I argue that immigration does not increase the average income level or income growth, but that increased population density reduces welfare because of negative “external effects”, effects of population growth not reflected in incomes: congestion, damages to human health, and environmental and ecological damage. While this holds for an entire small densely populated country like the Netherlands, it will no doubt also be relevant at state or local levels in the U.S.

See also, for the effect of immigration on the public budget, Borderless Welfare State: The Consequences of Immigration for Public Finances.


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