Cuisine diversity benefit to immigrant-receiving countries

One of the chief benefits of regionally diverse immigration is the resultant diversity of culinary styles (or cuisines) — more varieties of food available at low cost.

Restrictionists often worry both about immigrant characteristics and heterogeneity-related harms. These cultural issues deserve detailed discussion, but culinary diversity seems to fall on the benefits side of the ledger. Here are some related observations:

  • While other aspects of immigrant culture, such as their appreciation for highbrow art and music, are of limited relevance to the day-to-day experiences of natives, the culinary diversity that immigrants bring directly affects natives’ day-to-day food options in supermarkets and restaurants. Even ardent restrictionists have been known to celebrate these food options. In his paper Why Should We Restrict Immigration?, Bryan Caplan makes exactly this point:

    But immigrants causally improve at least one form of culture prized by snobs and philistines alike: cuisine. And if we’re being honest, don’t most Americans care more about food than literature and museums?

    Caplan makes the same point in a talk delivered at the Cato Institute by referring to his father, who, despite his dislike of immigration, loves to frequent immigrant-run restaurants.

  • Culinary or cuisine diversity does not require so-called “high-skilled” immigration. Low-skilled and medium-skilled immigration is good enough because food preparation skills are generally taught to and understood by people across the “skills” spectrum.
  • There are diminishing returns to immigration from a particular region with respect to cuisine diversity. For instance, Mexican immigration to the United States may be at the point of achieving diminishing returns in this respect. But immigration from a diverse range of countries — something that open borders would certainly promote — would certainly improve cuisine diversity.