Why have immigration? One in a series

July 28th, 2016

It is a rare day when you come across a crisp vision statement on immigration to the United States. You can find one in the report of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, informally known as the Jordan Commission, for its chair, Barbara Jordan, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Texas.

The Commission examined and made recommendations on virtually every aspect of the immigration system: family reunification, employment-based immigration, enforcement measures to stem unauthorized immigration, and numerical limits on all classes of immigrants, non-immigrants, and asylees.

Between 1994 and 1997 it issued four reports. In the past report, Becoming An American: Immigration and Immigrant Policy, the Commission defined a vision in 90 words:

“Properly-regulated immigration and immigrant policy serves the national interest by ensuring the entry of those who will contribute most to our society and helping lawful newcomers adjust to life in the United States. It must give due consideration to shifting economic realities. A well-regulated system sets priorities for admission; facilitates nuclear family reunification; gives employers access to a global labor market while protecting U.S. workers; helps to generate jobs and economic growth; and fulfills our commitment to resettle refugees as one of several elements of humanitarian protection of the persecuted.”

More information about the Commission is here. The Commission recommended a 30% reduction in legal immigration, which then was trending about 675,000 a year (it is now about one million).

 

Children of immigrants: 88% born here, 1/3 with a native born parent

July 25th, 2016

The Migration Policy Institute in April, 2016 issued an overview of the children of foreign-born parents. Also see here.

First-generation immigrant children are any foreign-born child with foreign-born parents. Second-generation immigrant children are any native-born child with at least one foreign-born parent. Children with immigrant parents are both first- and second-generation immigrant children. The estimates include only children under 18 years old.

In 2014, 17.5 million children lived with at least one immigrant parent.About a third of these children have one native born American as a parent. Of these, 2.1 million (12%) were born outside the country, and 15.4 million (88%) were born in the U.S. The percentage born outside the U.S. has declined.

Between 1990 and 2014, the number of children of immigrants grew 213% from 8.2 million to 17.5 million, almost exactly the rate of growth of the entire foreign-born population. During this period, the total number of children in the US grew by only 15%, thus foreign-born children accounted for the great majority of new children. They went from 13% to 25% of all children. Foreign-born children account in 2014 for only about 3% of all children.

These states have at least one third of all children as being off-spring of immigrants: California (49%), Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Texas (all between 35% and 38%).

31% of the 30.3 million children living in poor families (i.e., with family incomes below 200% of the federal poverty threshold) are children of immigrants.

Immigrant children are more likely than children of non-immigrants to live in a two parent household.

 

Opinions stable but partisanship sharper on immigration since mid 1990s.

July 20th, 2016

Public opinion in the United States about immigration has been remarkably stable over the years, while a political partisanship gap emerged. Republicans care about immigration; Democrats and Independents don’t. Neither party articulates a coherent immigration vision.

1960s through mid 1990s

Over generations, popular sentiment has been vaguely inclined to not to increase immigration, but also not to cut it back. Party lines were not clearly drawn because both parties were internally conflicted.

James Gimpel wrote this month that “A 1965 Gallup survey showed that….Republicans and Democrats were divided internally, with similar shares of respondents in both parties favoring a decrease. In 1977, a survey continued to show that partisan differences were negligible. In 1986, as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passing with a bipartisan congressional majority, a CBS News/New York Times poll recorded no statistically significant partisan differences in opinion toward overall immigration levels.”

In recent years public opinion *on the whole* has drifted slightly less concerned about immigration. Since 1999, Gallup polls show that people favoring a decrease in immigration went from about 43% in 1999 to about 36% in 2015; and those wanting to keep the present level stayed at about 40% throughout. Young people and higher income people are significantly more friendly to immigration (as is the case also in Europe).

Since 1990s, party divide

Partisanship shot up starting in the mid 1990s, The two topics that have most sharply divided parties have been immigration and taxes. The Republican messaging has almost entirely been on law enforcement issues, mainly illegal immigrants and a supposedly (but statistically non-existent) higher crime rate of illegal immigrants.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs polls have tracked the party divide on immigration. During 1998 – 2002, Dems and Reps were in consensus about the ill effects of “mass immigration,” and for both the 9/11 attack sharply heightened concerns about illegal immigration. Since then Rep concern about mass immigration stayed high but most Dems and, by even more, Independents stopped expressing concern. And a similar divide emerged about illegal immigration. Only Reps still consider this a burning issue.

Repubican mmigration policy as a subcategory of law-and-order policy

Reps have conflated the issue of immigration with the issue of law and order. Gimpel told me that the persistence of illegal immigrants is “patently unfair” in the minds of many. Pew Research polls suggest that Reps and Dem come down very differently on the unfairness question.  With much less vigor, Reps equate high levels of immigration with job loss of native-born Americans. The 2016 Republican Convention platform’s section on immigration demands that legal immigration be cut back, “in light of the alarming levels of unemployment and underemployment in this country.”

 

Old industrial cities and recent immigration

July 18th, 2016

I looked at the 2010 – 2014 population trends in the counties of these old industrial cities: Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Toledo. Each experienced net out-migration of native-born Americans, partially (and for Milwaukee completely) compensated by natural growth (births less deaths). All combined, they lost the equivalent of about 2% of the combined 2015 population over these four years these ways.

Foreign-born in-migration (combined, five cities) in 2010 – 2014 was equivalent to 1% of 2015 population. Thus foreign in-migration made up about half the loss from native-born exits and births/deaths, and about one third of the loss by exiting native-born exits.

What’s not shown in these summary figures is the likelihood that the exiting native-born persons were tilted towards working age (15 – 64) and that the immigrants moving in were more likely of prime working age and more engaged in the workforce. Thus, the workforce impact of these migrations was probably larger.

Summary: continued incremental shifting of the workforce toward immigrants in old industrial cities. An annual average shift from native to foreign-born workers of perhaps… .0.3 – 0.5 percent?

Americans like diversity, a lot more than do Europeans

July 17th, 2016

Pew Research asked, “Do you think having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in our country makes this country a better place to live, a worse place to live or doesn’t make much difference either way?”

Some 58% Americans say increasing diversity makes the country a better place to live, compared with just 7% who say it makes the U.S. a worse place to live and 33% saying it doesn’t make a difference either way. Liberals agree by 74%; conservatives, by 47%. The U.S, is far more relaxed than are Europeans. In European countries, only about 30% of conservatives agree; the left in Europe agrees only about 40%

Politics sharpens division where it is possible to do so. In the U.S., the division over foreigners most ripe for politicization is illegal immigration. On that, the liberal – conservative divide is much larger.

Impact of out-migration of undocumented workers from Arizona

July 16th, 2016

Arizona’s very restrictive law on employment of undocumented workers went into effect on January 1, 2008. What’s been the impact of the Legal Arizona Workers Act on the job market? One research team says that the removal of many undocumented workers lowered all low skilled employment, but raised earnings of low skilled native Americans. The Wall Street Journal says that wages in pertinent jobs have gone up.

The law is described here. Its most powerful provision was to penalize employers for failing to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to determine work eligibility. In-state employers using E-Verify went from 300 in March 2007 to 38,000 in January 2010.

The law’s impact on employment is obscured by the Recession and population increase. Employment in January 2008 was about 2.9 million; went down by 2011 to 2.75 million; then rose in January 2016, 3.75 million, reflecting recovery from the recession plus substantial in-migration from other states.

The Pew Research Center reported that between 2007 and 2012, Arizona’s population of undocumented workers dropped by 40%; 90,000 of them were workers, about 3% of the state’s formal workforce. Pew estimated the total undocumented population in 2012 at 300,000, implying about 200,000 undocumented workers remained.

The WSJ on Feb 9, 2016 estimated that intensive English courses in Arizona public schools fell from 150,000 in 2008 to 70,000 in 2012 and has remained constant since.

Three California-based researchers in 2014 wrote that “We find no evidence that LAWA improved the labor market outcomes for low-skilled legal workers.” The removal of these workers appears to have negatively impacted low skill employment over all. They found evidence of slightly lower employment levels but higher earnings among competing low-skilled white men. “The pattern of results points to a labor supply contraction as the primary mechanism at work.”

But the WSJ said that “wages rose about 15% for Arizona farmworkers and about 10% for construction between 2010 and 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Extraordinary visual of international migration

July 14th, 2016

Go the this page of the website of the International Organization for Migration. You will see a map of the world. After choosing either “in” or “out”, select country. The United States data is pretty dense, so first select a small country, such as Ghana. You will then learn there are 110,000 Ghanaians in the U.S., 23,000 in Canada and 186,000 in Nigeria.

 

Survey: how people differ in opinions about immigration

July 13th, 2016

A study published in 2012 reported that cultural issues outweighed economic issues in how people in Europe in 2002 regarded immigration, and that age and education drive a wide gap in opinion.

The findings help explain Donald Trump’s messaging and to whom he appeals.

A 2002 European Social Survey of 21 countries probed how people felt about immigration and what drove their opinions.

40-45% of respondents preferred to admit none or only a few immigrants, and 55-60% preferred to admit some or many. While small shares, strongly in favor were more numerous than strongly in opposed.

People were more supportive of immigrants from rich European countries than from poor non-European countries, and of immigrants who share the same ethnicity.

Age (under 30 and over 60) and education achievement drove people apart in their opinions. Those younger and those with higher education were much less inclined to oppose immigration. There is a generational gap (younger are more educated).

On both cultural issues and economic issues, younger people and more educated people were less opposed to immigration. Cultural issues were framed in questions such as if the country is better off if everyone shares the same customs and traditions, and if cultural life is undermined or enriched by the presence of immigrants. Economic issues were framed in questions such as whether immigration lowers wages and salaries and if immigrants take jobs away from natives or help create new jobs.

Throughout, cultural issues outweighed economic issues in explaining difference in opinion. Age and education were big factors. How people came down on cultural issues even predicted by a lot how people responded about economic issues.

Six common features of the 1920s and the 2010s on immigration sentiment

July 11th, 2016

The 1920s can help us understand  immigration’s hold on public opinion and politics during the 2010s.

One: Disruption. Both periods were burdened with war’s aftermath. And the speed of corporate innovation in the consumer economy alarmed and today alarms many.

Two: New immigrants. Both periods experienced huge surges in immigration from new sources, which contributed to disruptions and also served as a simplified explanation for troubles.

Foreign immigration had surged since the 1880s, the peak year being 1907, when 1.3 million people entered legally. (That’s equivalent to over 4 million new immigrants a year now.) Germans had been the dominant source; Eastern and Southern Europeans and Jews took over. Since the 1980s, non-Europeans have dominated immigration.

Three: Black-white relations were a factor. Then, migration of a million southern blacks to Harlem added to anxiety that white dominance was under siege. Now, conservatives demonize Black Lives Matter.

Four: Purity, pollution and order. Then, white racial purity movements flourished. Now, Donald Trump launched his campaign by castigating the morals of Mexican immigrants. He encourages conspiracy thinking.

Five: Intellectuals’ ambivalence, shown by avoidance. Then, as also now, liberal media often avoided the issue of cultural cohesion, focusing on economic inequality and class. The liberal media today also overlooks today economic disruption of immigration.

But some intellectuals added to support for curtailing immigration. In 1922 John Dewey said, “The simple fact of the case is that at present the world is not sufficiently civilized to permit close contacts of people with widely different cultures without the deplorable consequences.” He said that tighter immigration would allow for “rest and recuperation.” Today, some intellectuals are calling for lower immigration to preserve cultural cohesion, but none of Dewey’s stature.

Six: National politics becomes ethnic. Then, the Democratic Party discovered the national ethnic vote — New York Governor Al Smith’s 1928 presidential campaign won the major cities. This northern bloc of Democrats paired with Southern Democrats in 1932 to give the election to Roosevelt. Now, Reps and Dems fret over the Hispanic vote.

Jefferson Cowie’s The Great Exception (2016) illuminates some of these themes. Cowie holds that the New Deal would not have happened except for closing the borders to immigrants by the 1924 Act and exclusion of blacks from full labor and political participation.

 

How to find data on immigrants in your area fast

July 10th, 2016

Follow these steps to find a ton of information quickly, in a few minutes. I am using Vermont as an example, because I live there.

Step One: Go to the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder website

You can enter in zip code, city/town, county and state designations. The sources of data are listed here. I chose “Vermont.”

Enter your desired location, and on next page choose “Origins and Language.” Then, chose among options “selected characteristics of the native and foreign born population.”

The tables on this site can be copied and pasted into an Excel sheet.

I find that among native-born Americans, 33% are 18 thru 44, but for non-naturalized foreign born, 54% are. A third (34%) of non-naturalized foreigners do not speak English “very well,” and 17% of naturalized foreign-born do not speak English “very well.” This suggests a total population of 6,400 potential students of English. Half the Asian speaking people do not speak English “very well.”

Compared to native born, these non-naturalized foreign-born are very over-represented in agriculture (which means dairy in Vermont) and lodging, and very under-represented in construction, finance and public administration. They are much more likely to be employed, and about as likely to be on food stamps/SNAP. And they are much more likely to earn below 100% of the poverty level.

The Migration Policy Institute’s State Immigration Data Profiles have less data but is easier to read.

Step Two: Go to the American Immigration Council

Type in the name of the desired area in “Search.” Then select from number of options the one saying “state fact sheets,” then pick among state fact sheet options. The Council’s fact sheets compress a lot of information into its state-specific “New Americans” sheets.