Thursday, January 18, 2018

Some Facts About Immigration

It’s worthwhile to check in with reality… from time to time. Today, we examine the facts about immigration, provided by Kay Hymowitz in the City Journal.

Since we are now being barraged by commentators whining about how the new Trump rules would have kept their parents out of America… it is useful to find a way out of the miasma of sentimentality.

Hymowitz opens:

The United States has welcomed immigrants from various “shithole” countries for much of its history. Those schleppers worked, sweated, and saved, started businesses, paid taxes, and asked God to bless America.

And yet, the president’s rhetoric has clouded the issue, to the point where only a precious few are asking the right question: whether the America that welcomed masses of immigrants in the past is the same as today’s America.

She writes:

During the mass migration that took place in the period between 1850 and 1930, more than 12 million immigrants arrived in the United States. Many were uneducated and unskilled people from countries that were largely shitholes. Immigrants from nineteenth-century Ireland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Austro-Hungarian, Greece, even the now-flush Scandinavian countries, were escaping poor, stagnant places where the future promised more of the same.

Poverty and lack of skills didn’t stop newcomers from finding work because there was plenty of it—on the piers of New York and Philadelphia, the meatpacking plants of the Midwest, and in the factories that were spreading to cities all over the country. In 1914, over 70 percent of the factory workers at Ford Motor Company were foreign-born. Immigrants and their children were over half of all of American manufacturing workers in 1920. New technologies and a swelling population also meant more jobs for construction and transportation workers. The pre–World War II industrial economy, sociologists Roger Waldinger and Joel Perlman have written, offered a “range of blue collar opportunities” for immigrants and their children.

Then, blue collar jobs were plentiful. Now, not so much. Therein lies the rub:

Automation and offshoring to Third World countries have seriously eroded the number of blue-collar jobs. Manufacturing positions plummeted from 19.4 million in 1979 to 11.5 million in 2010, even as immigrants were adding millions to the population of job seekers. In 1970, blue-collar jobs were 31.2 percent of total nonfarm employment. By 2016, their share had fallen to 13.6 percent of total employment. Today’s immigrants are more likely to be hotel workers, agricultural hands, bussers, janitors, and hospital orderlies. They may be earning more than they could have in their home countries, but their wages—assuming they work full-time—are enough only to keep them a notch or two above the poverty line in the United States. Adding to their troubles is frequently a lack of benefits, unreliable hours, and little chance for moving up the income ladder.

America took in loads of immigrants because the rapidly expanding industrial base needed their labor. It took them in because it could also offer them something:

Immigration was part of the nation’s identity not because Americans loved living next to foreigners—few human beings do—or because immigration is a foundational principle of the nation, but because the rapidly growing American economy had a need for unskilled workers, and offered them an opportunity for advancement. 

The key to advancement in today’s economy is education… advanced education, at that. On that score, immigrant children have not been making the grade. As Hymowitz pointed out in the past, drop out rates go up in the third generation.

Unlike during the later industrial era, when even high school dropouts could get decent employment, education is now the most likely route to middle-class comfort and relative stability. Though as a group the number of foreign-born kids graduating college has grown faster than native-born, the children of low-skilled immigrants, particularly Latinos, are struggling. Instead of climbing the income ladder, they are slipping down. Between the second and third generation, Hispanic high school dropout rates go up and college attendance declines. Canada, Australia, and several other countries have introduced a points system giving preference to skilled immigrants precisely to avoid this scenario.

If Prime Minister Justin Bieber’s Canada is limiting immigration to those who possess first world skills, what is keeping America from doing the same?

What is the predictable outcome of the current American policy? Hymowitz explains that we will end up with:

… a multi-generational proletariat class, hovering near the poverty line and dependent on government help…

Have a nice day!


Jack Fisher said...

While I would be glad to assist in the roundup if Congress decided to deport all foreigners, this doesn't make sense as a reason to hate them:

"Today’s immigrants are more likely to be hotel workers, agricultural hands, bussers, janitors, and hospital orderlies. They may be earning more than they could have in their home countries, but their wages—assuming they work full-time—are enough only to keep them a notch or two above the poverty line in the United States."

Would the author be happier if citizens were working low wage jobs paying only to keep them a notch or two above the poverty line?

trigger warning said...

I don't think Hymowitz or Schneiderman said anything about "hate". Personally, I like immigrants because I hate mowing the lawn and pruning the roses.

Sam L. said...

Does Ms. Hymowitz think immigrants are going to become like the blacks?

David Foster said...

Actually, the biggest differences IMO are (a) the great decline in America's civilizational self-confidence, which greatly reduces the incentive for immigrants to assimilates, and (b) improved transportation and communications, which greatly reduces psychological the threshold for moving between countries. Even as recently as, say, 1900, the odds that an immigrant would never see the people he left behind again, and would be able to communicate with them only by ship-borne letter.

The much more generous 'social safety net', AKA welfare programs of various kinds, also plays an important part.

David Foster said...

My post from September 2015---'Two Views of Immigration'--may be of interest.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks David for those excellent points.

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