A new study by two Yale professors and an instructor at MIT puts the number of illegal aliens in America at 22.1 million — more than twice previous estimates.
Most media outlets have reported that some 11.3 million illegals live in the U.S., but researchers Edward Kaplan, Jonathan Feinstein and Mohammad Fazel‐Zarandi say that’s not even close to the actual number.
“Our original idea was just to do a sanity check on the existing number,” said Kaplan, a professor of operations research at Yale School of Management, according to a report in Yale Insights.
“Instead of a number which was smaller, we got a number that was 50% higher. That caused us to scratch our heads,” Kaplan said.
Feinstein, professor of economics and management at Yale, added, “There’s a number that everybody quotes, but when you actually dig down and say, ‘What is it based on?’ you find it’s 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.”
The 11.3 million number is gleaned from data in the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. “It’s been the only method used for the last three decades,” said Fazel‐Zarandi, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
So the researchers set out to attempt to find out if that number was accurate, using different methods.
The approach in the new research was based on operational data, such as deportations and visa overstays, and demographic data, including death rates and immigration rates. “We combined these data using a demographic model that follows a very simple logic,” Kaplan says. “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. 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,” Kaplan said.
According to their findings, the population of illegal aliens has been somewhat stable for a decade after booming in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“The trajectory is the same. We see the same patterns happening, but they’re just understating the actual number of people who have made it here,” said Fazel‐Zarandi. “They are capturing part of this population, but not the whole population,” he added.
Said Feinstein: “Our purpose is just to provide better information,” adding, “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.”
“We wouldn’t want people to walk away from this research thinking that suddenly there’s a large influx happening now. It’s really something that happened in the past and maybe was not properly counted or documented,” he said.