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December 27, 2012

Capsule Profile of the Immigrant Worker

from a Brookings Institution study, published on March 15, 2012, authored by Audrey Singer

Immigrants now 16.4% of labor force.

In 1970, immigrants made up approximately 5% of the population and 5% of the labor force. Their growth in the labor force began to outstrip their population growth by 1990, widening the gap between the two. By 2010, immigrants were 16% of the labor force, but only 13% of the total population.

High share of job growth

In late 1990s, immigrants made up 54% of job growth. In early 2000s, that increased to 67%. In late 2000s, it fell to 42%.

Different educational attainment from native Americans

These figures are heavily skewed be source of immigrant. For instance, Hispanic immigrants are more poorly educated, while Indian immigrants are much better educated than native Americans.

Less than high school education: Immigrants, 29%; native, 7%
BA: Immigrants 19%, native, 21%
PhDs: Immigrants, 1.9%. native, 1.2%

Concentration in certain job sectors

Compared to 15.8% in the workforce, immigrants make up 23% of all workers in IT an high tech. In construction, food services, and agriculture they represent approximately one-fifth of all workers. The highest shares of immigrant workers are found in private households (49% of all workers) and in the accommodation sector (31%).

December 22, 2012

Colorado’s surge of Latino voters: sea change in state politics

I have posted on the Colorado Compact recently. Not long ago, Colorado’s Tom Tomcredo was one the country’s most vocal anti-immigration advocates. Now, what a sea change! As reported in Latino Decisions by guest blogger Robert Pruehs:

The election eve polls conducted by Latino Decisions indicated that almost 87% of Colorado Latinos supported Obama in Colorado and 88% supported the Democrat in Congressional elections.

Those numbers are staggering. Combine this overwhelming support for Democrats with what The Pew Center estimates as 14% of the electorate (up from 8% in 2004), and Latinos have become a key constituency for Democratic success in Colorado. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that Latinos accounted for a whopping 12% of the President’s 54% of the vote (more than double his margin of victory). Questions of Latino mobilization and affect all fell by the wayside on November 6th. From here on out, it is hard to imagine a Colorado policy issue that will not be framed at least in part by the question of how Latinos will be affected by, and what are Latino preferences on, the issue.

This, in many ways, represents a sea-change—and one that is in great part a function of the political participation of the Latino community in Colorado.

The Democrats now control Colorado’s state legislature. The Democrats took control of the lower chamber from the Republicans, and now can command the legislative agenda that stalled significant policy proposals for civil unions and the creation of special tuition rates at institutions of higher learning for undocumented immigrants.

December 20, 2012

The "Texas Immigration Solution": Guest worker programs

The Texas Immigration Solution is a self-described conservative organization focused on immigration reform. It describes its mission to “enact conservative, market-based immigration reform into law,” and to “provide a voice for conservative job creators by educating the broader community on the urgent need for comprehensive, conservative, market-oriented reforms of the immigration process.”

Its solution is guest worker program-based for both skilled and unskilled workers, with conservative approaches to immigration in general:

Secure Our Borders – We demand the application of effective, practical and reasonable measures to secure our borders and to bring safety and security for all Americans along the border and throughout the nation.

Modernize the United States Social Security Card – We support the improvement of our 1936 Social Security card to use contemporary anti-counterfeit technology. The social security card will not be considered a National ID card for U.S. citizens.

Birthright Citizenship – We call on the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the United States to clarify Section 1 of the 14th amendment to limit citizenship by birth to those born to a citizen of the United States with no exceptions.

Create an Effective and Efficient Temporary Worker Program – A national Temporary Worker Program should be implemented to bring skilled and unskilled workers into the United States for temporary periods of time when no U.S. workers are currently available. The program should also require:

Self-funding through participation fees and fines;

Applicants must pass a full criminal background check;

Applicants with prior immigration violations would only qualify for the program if they paid the appropriate fines;

Applicants and/or Employers must prove that they can afford and/or secure private health insurance;

Applicants must waive any and all rights to apply for financial assistance from any public entitlement programs;

Applicant must show a proficiency in the English language and complete an American civic class;

Temporary Workers would only be able to work for employers that deduct and match payroll taxes;

All participants would be issued an individual Temporary-Worker Biometric Identification Card that tracks all address changes and both civil and criminal court appearances as a defendant.

December 19, 2012

The Colorado Compact

Colorado — with an estimated 180,000 undocumented immigrants — has created a compact on immigration, following Utah’s lead of a few years ago, which itself was in response to Arizona’s draconian legislation. According to the Greeley Tribune, the Colorado Compact arose out of 200 meetings throughout the state. The need for immigrant labor is most acute among the state’s farms, which “like many others nationally, have lost workers to the better-paying jobs of the oil and gas field, while also struggling to find local residents willing to do agriculture’s physical labor….Signers of the Colorado Compact span faith organizations, law enforcement agencies, the business community, immigrant-rights advocates and institutions of higher education, as well as agricultural interests.”

The Colorado Compact:

The Colorado Compact is an effort to convene and promote a reasonable conversation on immigration in Colorado that could lead to real and lasting federal reform. The Compact brings together leaders and community members of diverse backgrounds and politics who are committed to fostering a more rational and collaborative approach to immigration policy than exists today. We believe that the growing consequences of a broken immigration system must be addressed in a bipartisan effort that considers the principles outlined in this compact.


Immigration policy is a federal issue between the U.S. government and other countries. We urge the Colorado congressional delegation to work to enact immigration policy at the federal level that improves our immigration system, keeps our communities safe, and protects our borders.


Colorado is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. Our immigration system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses while protecting the interests of workers. This includes a visa system that is both responsive and effective at meeting the demands of our economy. It should also acknowledge the beneficial economic contributions immigrants make as workers, taxpayers, and consumers.


We believe that maintaining the safety and security of the United States is an utmost priority. Our immigration system must ensure the protection of our communities and national borders.


Strong families are critical to developing successful individuals and cohesive communities. Our immigration policies, where possible, should prioritize keeping close families together in order to ensure the most supportive home environments for all children across our state.


We support a law enforcement strategy that focuses on public safety, targets serious crime, and safeguards witnesses and victims. We further urge a reasonable and predictable regulatory environment that considers the interests of, and unintended consequences to businesses, workers, and consumers. Furthermore, the broader reform effort should eventually include a way to accurately, reliably, and affordably determine who is permitted to work, ensuring an adequate labor force for a growing economy.


Immigrants are part of our communities across Colorado. We must adopt a commonsense approach to this reality that reflects our values and recognizes the critical role immigration has played in our nation's history and economy. Our immigration policies must provide a sensible path forward for immigrants who are here without legal status, are of good character, pay taxes, and are committed to becoming fully participating members of our society and culture.

December 14, 2012

Large share of small business owners are immigrants

A New York Times editorial summarizes the elevated role of immigrants in running small businesses in the U.S. It cites a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute.

According to the study, 28% of leisure and hospitality business owners are immigrants. They are 53% of all gas station owners and 49% of all grocery store owners. One third of small businesses in California are immigrant-owned.

The Times’ summary says that “The study found that there were 900,000 immigrants among small-business owners in the United States, about 18% of the total. This percentage is higher than the immigrant share of the overall population, which is 13%, and the immigrant share of the labor force, at 16%. Small businesses in which half or more of the owners were immigrants employed 4.7 million people in 2007, the latest year for which data were available, generating $776 billion in receipts.”

They accounted for 30 % of the growth in small businesses — those with fewer than 100 employees — between 1990 and 2010.

Immigrant entrepreneurs are concentrated in professional and business services, retail, construction, educational and social services, and leisure and hospitality. They own restaurants, doctor’s offices, real-estate firms, groceries and truck-transportation services. More of them come from Mexico than any other country, followed by Indians, Koreans, Cubans, Chinese and Vietnamese.

December 6, 2012

High immigration rates for the future do not fix our aging problem

The Center for Immigration Studies using Census data and projections thinks that immigrants and their children will comprise most of American population growth but will have minimal effect on increasing the size of the workforce vs. the aged –i.e. it will have little positive impact on the “aging problem.”

Among the findings:

If net immigration (difference between those coming and going) unfolds as the Census Bureau estimated in the last set of projections, the nation’s population will increase from 309 million in 2010 to 436 million in 2050 — a 127 million (41 percent) increase.

By itself future immigration will account for 96 million (75 percent) of future population growth.

The immigrant (legal and illegal) share of the population will reach one in six U.S. residents by 2030, a new record, and nearly one in five residents by 2050.

Even if immigration is half what the Census Bureau expects, the population will still grow 79 million by 2050, with immigration accounting for 61 percent of population growth.

The underlying level of immigration is so high, even assuming a substantial reduction would still add tens of millions of new residents to the U.S. population and account for most of the population growth.

Consistent with prior research, the projections show immigration only slightly increases the working-age (18 to 65) share of the population. Assuming the Census Bureau’s immigration level, 58 percent of the population will be of working-age in 2050, compared to 57 percent if there is no immigration.

While immigrants tend to arrive relatively young and have higher fertility than natives, immigrants age just like everyone else, and the differences with natives are not large enough to fundamentally increase the share of the population who are potential workers.

December 2, 2012

What are the facts of the decline in the immigrant birth rate?

The Pew Research Center issued on November 29 a report on the birth rate in the country. Here are the bullet points for the immigrant birth rate:

Final 2011 data are not available, but according to preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall birth rate in 2011 was 63.2 per 1,000 women of childbearing age. That rate is the lowest since at least 1920, the earliest year for which there are reliable numbers. The overall U.S. birth rate peaked most recently in the Baby Boom years, reaching 122.7 in 1957, nearly double today’s rate. The birth rate sagged through the mid-1970s but stabilized at 65-70 births per 1,000 women for most years after that before falling again after 2007, the beginning of the Great Recession.

The 2010 birth rate for foreign-born women (87.8) was nearly 50% higher than the rate for U.S.-born women (58.9).

From 2007 to 2010, the overall number of births declined 7%, pulled down by a 13% drop in births to immigrants and a relatively modest 5% decline in births to U.S.-born women.

Still, total population growth in the future will depend mostly on foreign born mothers.. The projections indicate that immigrants arriving since 2005 and their descendants will account for fully 82% of U.S. population growth by 2050.

Total U.S. births in 2010 were 4.0 million—roughly 3.1 million to U.S.-born women and 930,000 to immigrant women. In 2011, according to preliminary data, there were 3.95 million total births.

Births to foreign born mothers as a share of all births was 16% in 1990, 25% in 2007, and 23% in 2010.

The share of U.S.-born children younger than age 2 with foreign-born mothers was about as high during the wave of immigration in the early 1900s (21%) as it is now. Thus we are seeing in effect a repeat of the huge influx of foreigners on American fertility now as it was 100 years ago.

The majority of births to foreign-born women (56%) in 2010 were to Hispanic mothers.

Birth rate declines are often driven by economic distress. Both foreign- and U.S.-born Hispanic women had larger birth rate declines from 2007 to 2010 than did other groups. Hispanics also had larger percentage declines in household wealth than white, black or Asian households from 2005 to 2009.5 Poverty and unemployment also grew more sharply for Latinos than for non-Latinos after the Great Recession began, and most Hispanics say that the economic downturn was harder on them than on other groups