PECN 600: Majors' Seminar
The Political Economy of U.S. Migration Policy
Professor: Douglas R. Nelson
Office: 108 Tilton Hall
Phone: 865-5317

Immigration is one of the premier policy issues of our time. While this is true throughout the world, in both rich and poor countries and at the international level, it is a particularly difficult issue in the United States. On the one hand, the US is a nation of immigrants, not just as a matter of fact, but as an essential part of its national ideology ("give us your tired, your poor, ...). With the exception of the indigenous people of North America, we are all something-Americans. On the other hand, a large influx of migrants, especially from a small number of places, especially when those places are different than the places of origin of earlier groups of migrants, create economic, social, and political stress. Current concerns with migration (especially in the Southwest) find strong parallels the with 19th century politics of migration. Thus, in an attempt to see the contemporary relevance of our economic history and to gain historical perspective on a difficult current issue, we begin the course with a historical overview of the the U.S. immigration experience. The second part of the course provides a somewhat more detailed analysis of the economics of current migration. The course concludes with an analysis of the politics of immigration policy in the U.S. Throughout the semester we will seek to introduce comparative political economic analysis for additional perspective.

Although this is not a course on international economics, microeconomic tools will be used extensively in our analysis. Thus, Economics 301 is a prerequisite. While not required, a course on the application of microeconomics to the study of international trade (e.g. Econ 433) will make your life easier.

The main readings for this course will be drawn from:


Evaluation of Performance: This course is a seminar. That means active participation from all students in every class. So that you will be able to discuss the issues and the readings, every member of the seminar is responsible for having read all of the reqired material by the class in which it is to be discussed. There is a substantial amount of reading, so it is essential that you keep current with the reading. In addition to class participation, your performance in this course will be evaluated on the basis of:

To earn an A, you must earn at least 270 points out of the total of 300 points available [if no one earns 270 points, the highest single score will earn a grade of A]. To pass the course you must earn at least 120 total points. Grades between these limits will be determined on the basis of your performance relative to that of the class as a whole.

With regard to the research paper. Every member of the seminar is required to produce a research paper on some aspect of the political economy of migration policy. These papers must be original work, plagiarism will not be tolerated. Broadly speaking, I expect papers in the 25-35 page range. To ensure that topics are well-established and suitable for the course, I require a proposal due no later than the fifth meeting of the course (15 February). Late proposals will result in a 10 point penalty to be assessed on the paper's final score. Research papers are due at the last regular meeting of the course (25 April). Late papers will not be accepted, and will earn a score of 0 points.

With regard to the short papers. The short papers will be reaction papers. A reaction paper is a short (i.e. 3-5 page) paper discussing some aspect of the relevant debate. In the reaction paper you must explicitly discuss all of the readings for that topic and evaluate some aspect of their discussion. Note: "evaluate" does not mean "agree or disagree with" but, rather, means identify the source of some disagreement between authors, explain why you think the disagreement is interesting/important, and explain why (given the arguments and evidence developed in the readings) one of the positions dominates the other. The reaction papers are due in class on the date we discuss the readings, late papers will not be accepted and will earn a grade of zero.

With regard to the final essay. Instead of an in-class final examination, I will distribute an essay question whose topic will be broadly synthetic, and will contain parts that require you to draw on all main material in parts II and III of the course. The question will be distributed on 25 April, your essays will be due in my office by 1:00pm on 3 May, late papers will not be accepted and will earn a grade of zero. I expect the essay to be in the 5 to 7 page range, and definitely not to exceed 10 pages.

Syllabus for
PECN 600: Majors' Seminar,
The Political Economy of U.S. Migration Policy

I. Introduction and Background

-15 February, paper proposals due.

II. The Economic Analysis of Migration

III. The Politics and Political-Economy of US Migration Policy-Making -25 April: Research papers due, final essay question distributed

-3 May, 1:00 pm: Final essays due