Rising Wages for Nurses? Nanny State to the Rescue

The New York Times had an article today that could have badly used a bit of economic analysis. The article reports on a provision in the Senate immigration bill that removes the cap on the number of nurses who can enter the country each year.

The problem, as described in the article, is that the country faces a large and growing shortage of nurses. The decision to turn to immigrants is striking, since this is not what Congress did to meet the large shortages of doctors, lawyers, accountants, economists, CEOs and other occupations that draw very high wages. In other words, the Senate is making a decision to consciously try to depress the wages of nurses, in a way that it has not done for other professions that command high wages.

It would have been reasonable to ask why nurses are being singled out in this way. There certainly is no economic argument for holding down the wages of nurses but not the wages of workers in more highly paid occupations.

--Dean Baker

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