Undocumented, unaccounted and undercounted


You almost feel sorry for them, considering how unpopular this study will make them – this story of three Ivy League academics setting up on a quest to establish that the 11 million estimate for illegal migrants in America is grossly exaggerated only to find that the real number is likely twice as big is something to cherish:

“Our purpose is to provide better information,” said Jonathan Feinstein, an economics professor at Yale. In a video statement, he defended the estimate from likely critics, saying it is an expert analysis, not a political project:

“This paper is not oriented towards politics or policy. I want to be very clear. This paper is about coming up with a better estimate of an important number, and we are really trying in this paper to keep away from making any statements about how that could or should be used. It is just a paper to help the debate be organized around some better information, which in my opinion is a good thing to do. I think the debate should always be centered around the best information we can develop.”

The academics expected their techniques to show the population is smaller than the consensus estimate of 11.3 million. “Our original idea was just to do a sanity check on the existing number,” said Edward Kaplan, operations research professor at Yale. “Instead of a number which was smaller, we got a number that was 50 percent higher. That caused us to scratch our heads.”

The three gents looks like they sure are delighted with the result of their research:


“We have a conservative estimate that the number is at least 16.7 million,” said Edward Kaplan, an operations research professor at Yale. The study used “over 1 million scenarios accounting for all of the variability in the various parameters that we need for this model [and] on average, we’re estimating something like 22 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.”

The range is between 10 and 35 million. No one knows and no one can possibly know. But it’s a considerable proportion of the population where already one in six or seven is foreign born. The melting pot needs time to melt.