Academic hits back - and misses in migration row

I've been a bit busy recently, what with complaining to the PCC, trying to get somebody somewhere to take some bloody notice of the fact that MigrationWatch's figures that are still being repeated are a load of hogwash and actually having a life, so posting here has been light. Still, there have been some developments. I remindend MigrationWatch of the email I sent before and actually got a reply this time. Apparently they had no record of my last email, but their director of research is looking into the figures now. That's something at least. I've also been looking more closely at their figures and Professor David Coleman's defence of them. That might mean posting another trashing of the figures that's a bit better thought out and less hasty, but it does definitely mean I want to look at what the Professor has been saying in the press recently.

In 'Academic hits back in migration row', which appeared in last Friday's (9 March) Telegraph, Professor Coleman defends his position as an Oxford Professor while being involved with MigrationWatch and the Galton Institute. In doing so, he is very careful to point out:
The briefs on [MigrationWatch's website], however, arise from its own considerable in-house expertise.
However I never speak on behalf of Migrationwatch; I am not its spokesman.
He then goes on to defend the last set of figures MW produced, which makes that statement look a bit curious. Still, it's not that I'm interested in. It's the Professor's actual defence I want to look at. He starts:
But a word might be appropriate about the calculation that the net contribution by immigrants to average national income per head was equivalent to about a Mars bar a week.
And goes on to explain a few things, including:
A number of studies show that the net economic benefit of immigration per head of population is about 0.1% of GDP.
Looks as though he's explaining the 'Mars bar' calculation in the MW paper, right? Except he isn't. A number of studies may well show the contribution to GDP is 0.1%, but the MW paper doesn't make that claim. It examines only two studies for migrant contribution to GDP (one of which is totally wrong and based on a nonsense figure), and claims that both show it to be at least ten times lower than 0.1%, at 0.01% or actually negative. And MW doesn't use the important caveat 'net economic benefit' in either the briefing paper or the press release that accompanies it.

As I mentioned in my earlier posts about this, the study that MW claim shows that migrant contribution is negative only does so if you use the incorrect measure of population growth. If you use the correct one, it would be 0.1% like the Professor says. But the paper itself doesn't show this figure anywhere at all. It claims the figure is more than ten times lower. If the Professor really thinks that a number of studies show migrant contribution is 0.1%, then he doesn't agree with this paper's findings, and shouldn't be defending it.

He goes on to explain:
In the UK, GDP is about £1.3 trillion so 0.1% is about £1300 million. Per head, among 60 million people in the UK that amounts to about £22 each per year or just under 50p each per week.
As anyone who remembers the tabloid frenzy would know, MW does not claim that migrant contribution is 50p per week, but 4p a week. The Professor's calculations are over twelve times higher.

So what's going on? Could be a number of things.

The Professor might have made a mistake. There might be a number of studies that show migrant contribution is something other than 0.1%. That would make his attack on Oxford STAR because they, "clearly have little knowledge of the subject matter and are not familiar with the relevant literature," look a bit silly.

He might actually disagree with the paper's findings. He could be hinting at this when he says:
Such calculations depend a lot on assumptions but seldom come up with any really big net effect on the economy at the level of the individual, positive or negative. [Emphasis mine]
If this is the case, he shouldn't be defending the MW figures at all, let alone praising the authors for having, "considerable in-house expertise." He should be explicitly pointing out that he thinks their findings are flawed.

Finally, he may never have actually read the MW briefing paper and have no idea that its figures are so much lower than his own estimates. In which case he definitely shouldn't be defending it or trying to explain its findings. If this is the case, it looks doubly embarrassing when he attacks his opponents for not being familiar with the literature.

There is one other reason he shouldn't be defending the MW paper though. And that's because it's an ill thought out, poorly researched and misleadingly put together piece of propaganda.

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