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The Number of Undocumented Immigrants in the United States

By Edward H. Kaplan
Location Bloomfield 527
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Wednesday 17 October 2018, 11:30 - 12:30

Speaker: Edward H. Kaplan, William N and Marie A Beach Professor of Operations Research, Public Health, and Engineering, Yale University

Title:  The Number of Undocumented Immigrants in the United States

Abstract: We apply standard demographic principles of inflows and outflows to estimate the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States, using the best available data, including some that have only recently become available. Our analysis covers the years 1990 to 2016. We develop an estimate of the number of undocumented immigrants based on parameter values that tend to underestimate undocumented immigrant inflows and overstate outflows; we also show the probability distribution for the number of undocumented immigrants based on simulating our model over parameter value ranges. Our conservative estimate is 16.7 million for 2016, nearly fifty percent higher than the most prominent current estimate of 11.3 million, which is based on survey data and thus different sources and methods. The mean estimate based on our simulation analysis is 22.1 million, essentially double the current widely accepted estimate. Our model predicts a similar trajectory of growth in the number of undocumented immigrants over the years of our analysis, but at a higher level. While our analysis delivers different results, we note that it is based on many assumptions. The most critical of these concern border apprehension rates and voluntary emigration rates of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. These rates are uncertain, especially in the 1990's and early 2000's, which is when - both based on our modeling and the very different survey data approach - the number of undocumented immigrants increases most significantly. Our results, while based on a number of assumptions and uncertainties, could help frame debates about policies whose consequences depend on the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

(Co-authored with Mohammad M. Fazel-Zarandi, Sloan School of Management, MIT; and Jonathan S. Feinstein, Yale School of Management)

Brief Bio:  Edward H. Kaplan is the William N. and Marie A. Beach Professor of Operations Research, Public Health, and Engineering at Yale University’s School of Management. An expert in operations research, mathematical modeling and statistics, Kaplan was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine). His research in HIV prevention and counterterrorism has been recognized with the Edelman Award, Lanchester Prize, Centers for Disease Control’s Charles C. Shepard Science Award, INFORMS President’s Award, three Koopman Prizes, and numerous other awards. Kaplan was the Lady Davis Visiting Professor of medicine and of statistics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and also served as a visiting professor to the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the Survey Research Center at UC Berkeley, Columbia’s Graduate School of Business, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.  In 2014, Kaplan was elected to a three year term as INFORMS President-Elect (2015), President (2016), and Past-President (2017).  For more information about Kaplan and his research, visithttp://faculty.som.yale.edu/EdKaplan/.