Political Economy, Sectoral Shocks, and Border Enforcement
37 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 1999 Last revised: 13 Oct 2010
Date Written: August 1999
In this paper, we examine the correlation between sectoral shocks and border enforcement in the United States. Enforcement of national borders is the main policy instrument the U.S. government uses to combat illegal immigration. The motivation for the exercise is to see whether border enforcement falls following positive shocks to sectors that are intensive in the use of undocumented labor, as would be consistent with political economy models of how enforcement policy against illegal immigration is determined. The main finding is that border enforcement is negatively correlated with lagged relative price changes in the apparel, fruits and vegetables, and slaughtered livestock industries and with housing starts in the western United States. This suggests that authorities relax border enforcement when the demand for undocumented workers is high.
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