News & Politics

Study: Twice the Number of Illegal Aliens in U.S. as Previously Thought

A shocking conclusion from a study on illegal immigration performed by three researchers affiliated with Yale University shows that the number of illegal aliens residing in the United States is twice the generally accepted 11.3 million number used by government and academics.

National Review reports that, according to one of the study’s authors, Edward Kaplan, the original idea for the study was to “do a sanity check on the existing number.” Kaplan said that “instead of a number which was smaller, we got a number that was 50 percent higher. That caused us to scratch our heads.”

Another of the study’s authors,  Jonathan Feinstein, a professor of Economics and Management, says the accepted number is based on “one very specific survey and possibly an approach that has some difficulties. So we went in and just took a very different approach.”

That approach resulted in a number closer to 22 million illegal aliens in the country.

 “We combined these data using a demographic model that follows a very simple logic,” Kaplan said. “The population today is equal to the initial population plus everyone who came in minus everyone who went out. It’s that simple.”

“The analysis we’ve done can be thought of as estimating the size of a hidden population,” he added. “People who are undocumented immigrants are not walking around with labels on their foreheads. . . . There are very few numbers we can point to and say, ‘This is carved in stone.’”

The researchers said their goal in crunching the numbers was not a political one.

“We wouldn’t want people to walk away from this research thinking that suddenly there’s a large influx happening now,” Feinstein commented. “It’s really something that happened in the past and maybe was not properly counted or documented.”

Whether their intent was political or not, the study will be used by both sides as ammunition in the political debate.

Are we to believe this number? Previous estimates of illegals in the U.S. always included the caveat “at least” 11 million. Few believed there were fewer than that number and most researchers have concluded the number was considerably higher.

But double the accepted figure? The strain on states’ welfare, health care, and public school systems of 11 million extra people (in addition to the 11 million already counted) would almost certainly be noticeable in public spending — unless there are many millions of illegals who don’t get welfare payments, never get sick or injured, and don’t send their kids to school.

I have no doubt the number is higher than 11 million. But unless the researchers have some pretty convincing evidence, we should applaud the effort, but be wary of their conclusions.