Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI.

If it\’s inequality rather than absolute levels of income that we humans worry about then why do so many immigrants move to places where they are at the bottom of the pile but have higher incomes?

6 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere”

  1. Because we’re much better at tolerating temporary hardship if followed by long-term gain than we are at tolerating indefinite grinding misery.

    Nobody makes the shift with the expectation that they and their kids will be the poorest in a rich society: they’re following the American (or whichever country) Dream narrative.

    It’s the same reason why I was happy to work night-shift retail jobs for minimum wage aged 19, but would be distinctly unhappy if I had to do the same these days.

  2. Ah… but you’ve ignored that they’re context switching- contemplating the higher income in the new country compared to their current context in the old country.

    On the other hand, the next generation do not seem to be happy to be much richer than those in the old country, but instead compare themselves to the only context they know, and are disgruntled.

  3. Aren’t most of the readers of this blog ex-pats? I can’t speak for the rest, but for me the whole point of emigration is that I can enjoy a nice lifestyle in the Caribbean on an income which would barely support me in the UK. I definitely earn less as a result, but I’m effectively richer.

    Where it gets a little complicated is that the main reason I become effectively richer is that there’s a great deal of inequality in the society I’m moving to, and so labour is very, very cheap. I couldn’t give a damn about lording it over people because I’m richer than them; I’m only concerned with where I actually am. In absolute terms, I’ll be poorer, but in effect I’ll be richer.

    Come to think of it, though, talking about income alone misses the point. It’s true that people with nothing (and no prospects) living next door to people with plenty will tend to analyse the situation and decide (correctly) that their best life choice is to accept the risk of jail (or worse) in exchange for the chance to make some money. It’s not true, though, that money is the only deciding factor. There’s quite a remarkable difference in crime rates in the Caribbean even within single islands depending on whether the very poor are effectively ghettoised in an inner-city slum next to the garbage dump and sewage works, or are living on a beautiful beach and plucking mangos from the trees.

    So, is inequality the big problem? Or is it just something that’s bound to be present when there are problems, simply because the problems only exist when you have the very poor, and because whilst poor, these people aren’t stupid, and so will not bother trying to steal from anyone not relatively rich?

  4. @ Dave
    One of my friends moved from being an “Assistant Curate” in Mayfair to being a Vicar in an “Inner London” parish and was horrified not so much that his new parishioners stole but that they stole *from each other* rather from the rich (within walking distance) who could have borne the loss without suffering significant hardship.
    So real life does not support your hypothesis. Also, how many villagers steal/stoile from the Lord of the Manor (other than poaching rabbits which is widely tolerated even where it is/was not actively encouraged)?

  5. Ask college undergraduates … whether they would prefer $50k a year while everyone else gets $25k, or $100k while everyone else gets $200k, then the preponderance is for the lower absolute but higher relative amount.

    Surely this just indicates that college undergraduates are, in general, pretty dumb.

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