The Effect of Immigrants on U.S. Employment and Productivity | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Effect of Immigrants on U.S. Employment and Productivity

The evidence is overwhelming that immigrants (including ones many like to label as "illegals") are not a drag on the U.S. economy and may even help it. Here is an economic research letter published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco that flies in the face of much of the rhetoric out there pushed by politicians who want to use immigration as an election wedge issue: yet another fear tactic used by people who assume most Americans are too dumb to do their own homework. With any luck, Americans will prove them wrong.

The intro:
The effects of immigration on the total output and income of the U.S. economy can be studied by comparing output per worker and employment in states that have had large immigrant inflows with data from states that have few new foreign-born workers. Statistical analysis of state-level data shows that immigrants expand the economy's productive capacity by stimulating investment and promoting specialization. This produces efficiency gains and boosts income per worker. At the same time, evidence is scant that immigrants diminish the employment opportunities of U.S.-born workers.

Previous Comments

ID
159628
Comment

Bumpity bump.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-01T17:51:24-06:00
ID
159631
Comment

The silence is deafening...

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2010-09-02T13:10:18-06:00
ID
159633
Comment

Indeed. If anyone starts complaining about immigrants and then cover their ears when you share facts like above, you have your answer.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-02T13:27:28-06:00
ID
159634
Comment

But they take our jobs!!! (I like how Todd says it.)

Author
golden eagle
Date
2010-09-02T14:03:40-06:00
ID
159712
Comment

The problem with this study is undocumented workers are not reported to any state or federal agency, therefore the so called increase in productivity per worker is erroneously high.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-09-13T08:24:04-06:00
ID
159713
Comment

From the report: To better understand this mechanism, it is useful to consider the following hypothetical illustration. As young immigrants with low schooling levels take manually intensive construction jobs, the construction companies that employ them have opportunities to expand. This increases the demand for construction supervisors, coordinators, designers, and so on. Those are occupations with greater communication intensity and are typically staffed by U.S.-born workers who have moved away from manual construction jobs. This complementary task specialization typically pushes U.S.-born workers toward better-paying jobs, enhances the efficiency of production, and creates jobs. This task specialization, however, may involve adoption of different techniques or managerial procedures and the renovation or replacement of capital equipment. Hence, it takes some years to be fully realized. As a 30 veteran of the architectural, engineering and construction industry I find the above statement to be completely erroneous. The availability of undocumented labor does not necessarially lead to the "net" expansion of construction companies. The construction market, on its' basic level, a zero sum game. The availabilty of contracts is finite. If one company gets the contract typically four other companies don't. The availability of undocumented workers may increase the profit margins of some companies until the other companies jump on the undocumented worker band wagon. The big loserrs in this whole scenario are the typical low educated "documented" workers. For example it is reported that the unemployment ratio of Black males is over 40% nationally (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t02.htm.) This table reports the unemployment rate as 16%, however the unemployent rate excludes those who have given up looking for work through the state and federal employment services agencies. The big winners in this scenario are the business owners who realize larger profits and fewer payroll costs as undocumented workers don't get unemployment benefits, health and workman's compensation benefits. In addition using undocumented workers results in lower health and safety costs as undocumented workers can't complain about unsafe working conditions. I agree that the protection of the human rights of undocumented workers is important. Human rights considerartions aside, I can't for the life of me see why "progressive" people champion the rights of undocumented workers over the rights of documented workers.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-09-13T08:57:27-06:00
ID
159715
Comment

Here's another interesting piece: How illegal immigrants are helping Social Security And here is the author's bio, for the record: Edward Schumacher-Matos is director of the Harvard University Migration and Integration Research Program and a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Schumacher-Matos was the founding editor and associate publisher of The Wall Street Journal Americas, a bureau chief for The New York Times in Buenos Aires and Madrid and member of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He also founded the Rumbo chain of Spanish-language dailies in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley, which were later sold. He writes the Ombudsman column for The Miami Herald. At Harvard, Schumacher-Matos has been the Robert F. Kennedy Visiting Professor in Latin American Studies; a Shorenstein Fellow on the Press, Politics and Public Policy; and a lecturer at the Kennedy School on immigration policy. He is editor of a book on U.S.-Spain relations and has published chapters in several books on Latin America. He has written for journals such as Foreign Affairs, appears frequently on television talk shows, and speaks widely on political and policy issues in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. He was a Fulbright Fellow in Japan. Schumacher-Matos immigrated from Colombia as a child and was raised in Germany and Georgia. He is a Vietnam veteran.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-13T13:03:56-06:00
ID
159716
Comment

I can't for the life of me see why "progressive" people champion the rights of undocumented workers over the rights of documented workers. Who is doing that? Confused.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-13T13:05:14-06:00
ID
159728
Comment

Confused, All of the comments posted prior to mine appear to be cheering the report. Hooray, undocumented workers are good for the economy. This attitude discounts the effects of these undocumented workers on the most vulnerable of the documented workers. And I repeat: The big loserrs in this whole scenario are the typical low educated "documented" workers. For example it is reported that the unemployment "ratio" of Black males is over 40% nationally. Please note that this ratio does not include incarcerated Black males. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t02.htm. This table reports the unemployment "rate" as 16%, however the unemployent "rate" excludes those who have given up looking for work through the state and federal employment services agencies. As less than middle class majority Americans do not have a nationwide advocacy group that I can refer to and they are not called out as a specific demographic in the Department of Labor report I cited, I cannot document how undocumented workers affect less than middle class majority Americans...but I hazard to guess they are hurting as well.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-09-13T18:20:39-06:00
ID
159729
Comment

The report cited above as "How illegal immigrants are helping social security", ironically is yet another example of how, the interests of the wealthiest documented American workers are benefited at the expense of the less than middle class documented workers, as well as the undocumented workers. From the report: Adding to the Social Security irony is that the restrictionists are mostly older or retired whites from longtime American families. The very people, in other words, who benefit most from the Social Security payments by unauthorized immigrants. So once again, according to the cited report, the big winners are the wealthiest documented workers. In addition, it is a documented fact that the life expectancy of Blacks (I can attest to that) and less than wealthy whites is below the eligibility age to get Social Security benefits, so there we have a double whammy. Of course I agree that the human rights of documented workers should be championed. However, I have to ask again, why do progressives posting above on this site consistently champion the rights of undocumented workers over the rights of documented workers?

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-09-13T18:41:17-06:00
ID
159734
Comment

Good points Frank. I think the question here is not whether the rights of undocumented workers are being championed over the documented workers, but who benefits more from the undocumented labor that is the driving force behind undocumented immigrants in this country. You cite the 40% unemployment rate for Black males as if that rate is directly related to undocumented workers in the workplace. While there maybe some incidence of undocumented workers displacing black men in the workplace, the majority of the documented workers are in jobs that firms literally “reserve” for them as a part of how they bid for contracts. Basically, undocumented workers, and the considerably less expense involved in employing them, contributes to maintaining affordable prices for manufacturing goods, at least that is how the phenomenon is sold to consumers. In reality, it contributes more to the profit margin of those firms more than anything. Basically, because contracting firms deem low skilled black men as more expensive to hire than undocumented workers, the firms prefer undocumented workers. I don’t see how this is championing the rights of the undocumented workers over documented workers. The proverbial “bad guy” here is firms seeking larger profit margins by exploiting the undocumented workers, at the expense of employing low skilled documented workers, who maybe majority Black men.

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-09-14T09:14:14-06:00
ID
159736
Comment

I think everyone has made some excellent points in regards to their arguments on this topic. The thing I think we need to look at in regards to the average worker in america, is the grounds/terms in which they are willing to accept employment? What are the willing to do in order to earn a paycheck? I mean there are so many things you can look at in regards to a migrant worker vs. low-educated american worker. In a capitalist society, where people are looking at cutting-cost and maximizing profits, simply for the stockholders = boiling down to competition. The best workers, at the best cost for the company. That's why so many american companies have outsourced typical american jobs, to other countries - someone will do it for way less money. It's an ugly cycle.

Author
Duan C.
Date
2010-09-14T10:33:17-06:00
ID
159741
Comment

Blackwatch, The people I consider championing undocumented workers over documented workers were the four persons posting before I did, and not some esoteric "others". I decided the "break the silence" with a devils advocate poit of view. The struggle between documented and undocumented workers I pointed out is not a racial thing. As I said above As less than middle class majority Americans do not have a nationwide advocacy group that I can refer to and they are not called out as a specific demographic in the Department of Labor report I cited, I cannot document how undocumented workers affect less than middle class majority Americans...but I hazard to guess they are hurting as well. The two reports cited above cite the increase in US productivity as if the increase in directly related to undocumented workers. As undocumeted workers are undocumented, untraceable and therefore uncountable, their statements, conclusions, logic, methodology and data base are no better than mine. As for companies reserving jobs for documented workers. If this is a reference to construction, government contracting is highly regulated, but government contracts account for less tha 20% of the US construction market.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-09-14T14:53:15-06:00
ID
159742
Comment

Duan C The point I am making is until progressives always take into account how government policies effect the "least of us", we will soon find that the "majority of us" will be worse off than we could ever imagine. And just when did we become a capitalist society? I would say within the past twenty years. Before then we have a economic system based on "fettered capitalism", a social system based on controlling the gap between the richest and the poorest, and a political system based upon fairness and honesty. Now all we seem to hear about is the stock market, low prices, expansion of the rights of corporations, and buying access to politicians through phantom and undisclosed campaign contributions In my opinion we must stop letting the well being of the capitalism monster be our single overriding concern. As Karl Marx, or someone of his ilk, once said, we will hang the capitalists and they will sell us the rope to do so. Think of China and our quest for cheaper consumer products. Think of the Islamic radicals being financed by our quest for cheaper fuel. Past U.S. government policy created the largest middle class in the world in this country. The governments past protection of unions, effective immigration poloicies and enforcement and child labor, combined with governments creation of home ownership tax credits, Farmers Home loan financing, the G.I. Bill, etc. were all created dispite the opposition of the capitalists. Current government policy is rapidily destroying that same middle class. The governments destruction of the protections of unions, non enforcement of immigration laws, importation of the crime of child labor via unscupulous corporate greed, the bankrupting of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are all being done with the support of the capitalists. Future government policies can re-solidify the U.S. middle class by re-instituting those same policies that created that middle class. But it won't happen until progressives realize that the "least of us" are merely the canaries in the mine, foretelling the future of the "majority of us". And of course, the human rights of undocumented workers should be respected and protected, but not at the expense of our documented workers.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-09-14T14:58:53-06:00
ID
159744
Comment

The people I consider championing undocumented workers over documented workers were the four persons posting before I did, and not some esoteric "others" Then that is exactly why you should stick with speaking for yourself and not others, Mickens. I'm clearly one of those four people, and I'm not doing that, nor do I believe it. I've told you before: do not troll for a fight on this site with me or anyone else if you want your posts to be opened. The substance part of your posts are fine, but these kinds of inaccurate personal comments about "four persons posting before I did" are not appropriate. This is the last time I will explain this.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-09-14T15:30:30-06:00
ID
159749
Comment

Frank: There's much more to this issue than your oversimplified two-sided viewpoint. It's not for/against, black/white, progressive/conservative. You have some interesting points to make, but your huge generalities about progressives are neither interesting nor accurate. The policies you cite as being necessary to save the middle class—unions, effective tax policy, etc.—are not policies progressives are against. As for championing undocumented workers "over" documented workers, that's just two-dimensional thinking. Unlike a construction contract, immigration is not a zero-sum game where if one wins, everyone else loses. That's exactly the kind of narrow "us vs. them" thinking that fear-mongering right-wing extremists want you to do. The point of the research letter is to refute the oft-heard scare tactics of people who would have us believe that immigration IS zero-sum. "Immigrants take our jobs!" they say, and "immigrants are a drain on resources!" Study after study has shown those claims to be untrue. Is it progressive "policy" to always look first to protecting the least of us? You bet. That's where things like unions, child-labor laws, the G.I. bill, civil rights laws and more came from. Because when we can care for the least of us, we do care for all of us, without exception.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2010-09-14T18:40:39-06:00
ID
159752
Comment

And just when did we become a capitalist society? I would say within the past twenty years. Frank - I really don't have a lot of beef with what your saying, but the only thing I would comment on is what I quoted you on. If we only became a capitalist society within the last 20 years, can't you honestly say that's where we are at right now? I mean that is what we are facing at this very moment, even if it is within the last 20 years, we have still reached that point, no matter how short of a time frame. After seeing the primary results from yesterday, topics like this are only going to get more muddled and more confusing because people really don't know what they want or who they want to lead them in this country, the only thing people really are these days - UPSET

Author
Duan C.
Date
2010-09-15T06:50:01-06:00
ID
159754
Comment

Ronnie M I agree that immigration is not a zero sum game. I never said that it was. My zero sum rebuttal was to a specific example (the expansion of construction companies as the result of hiring undocumented workers) presented in the article which was the subject of the JFP article. While I agree that immigration is not a two dimensional issue, and is not a zero sum game, that does not negate the fact that there are big winners and big losers in the current immigration game. I speak for the big losers who are the less than middle class documented workers of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, political views and religions. This is a group of people who always lose when the macro results of a policy are positive, while the micro aspects of a policy are devastating (and then we complain about crime). This is not a racial issue. I only cited the losses to the African American community because the Department of Labor only presented employment statistics for this group in the data base I cited. The DOL did not present employment statistics for the other less than middle class documented workers. This is the third time I have made this distinction on this thread. Since it has intmated that I consider this a "for/against, black/white, conservative/progressive issue" please review the data in the attached link that indicates that for those with a high school diploma or equivilent (which includes blacks/whites and conservatives/progressives, etc.) the employment ratio is around the same 40% shown for African Americans, while the unemployment rate is only shown to be 6.9%. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm For those who are interested here is how DOL determines the unemployment rates and ratio's http://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm Please note the cataegory shown as "discouraged workers not currently seeking employment" Also DOL does not ask for, record or differentiate the documented status of workers in their reports. Undocumented workers may or may not be good for the economy, but they certainly hurt the documented less than middle class workers, whose ranks are growing.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-09-15T10:13:28-06:00
ID
159763
Comment

Frank, I think you're citing the employment-to-population figures incorrectly. That is, as awful as the figures are for underemployment among African Americans, they are not quite as bad as 40 percent. That figure is the total percentage of African-American adults who are working. It includes people who do not want jobs, such as parents who stay home to raise children. What you want is the underemployment figure. That seems to be about 25 percent, versus the unemployment figure of about 16 percent. Obviously, that's still terrible. But we should use the correct numbers. Note that the employment-to-population ratio for all races with a college degree or better is only about 70 percent. That does not mean that 30 percent of people with college degrees are underemployed.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2010-09-15T11:45:27-06:00
ID
159771
Comment

Duan C, Ooops! Sorry about that. Excellent point. Hopefully, a simple correction would put it all back into a clearer perspective. I meant to put that first mention of capatalist society in quotes: i.e. "capatalist society". The explanation that followed explained why I put(meant to put) "capitalist society" in quotes. The corrected copy would now read: And just when did we become a "capitalist society"? I would say within the past twenty years. Before then we have a economic system based on "fettered capitalism", a social system based on controlling the gap between the richest and the poorest, and a political system based upon fairness and honesty. Now all we seem to hear about is the stock market, low prices, expansion of the rights of corporations, and buying access to politicians through phantom and undisclosed campaign contributions In my opinion we must stop letting the well being of the capitalism monster be our single overriding concern. As Karl Marx, or someone of his ilk, once said, we will hang the capitalists and they will sell us the rope to do so. Think of China and our quest for cheaper consumer products. Think of the Islamic radicals being financed by our quest for cheaper fuel. As far as where should we go from here, if Americans were happy with Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman (and most were), the current current and proposed policies should be a "no brainer" The New Deal (i.e. the current and proposed Stimulus Funding) worked; among other things it brought Mississippi and most of rural America out of abject poverty. The GI Bill worked (i.e. the proposed New GI Bill and increased Fed aid to public education); it helped create a larger middle class of college graduates. Social Security worked (i.e. the recently passed Health Care Reform Bill); it provided a minimum level of financial support to keep Americans from falling into poverty in the event of age or health issues. Wage and hour and union protections worked (i.e. hopefully upcoming immigration reform); it protected workers from unscrupulous corporate leadership from preying on the "dog eat dog" competetiveness of desperate workers. Tax increases on the wealthiest worked (i.e. proposed ending of the Bush Tax Credits for individuals having adjusted gross incomes of $250,000 and couples with AGI of $500,000 or more); it enabled the gov't to institute and fund safety net, infrastructure improvement and individual improvement opportunities for the producers of the wealth of the wealthy, the workers. However, the "no brainers" of the past have become the devisive issues of the present, so I do share your concern about the "UPSET" among us.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-09-15T14:21:39-06:00

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