Archive for May, 2017

Thinking of African Americans as an immigrant group not well assimilated

Monday, May 29th, 2017

A comparison is worth drawing between two populations that have not assimilated well economically in the U.S. – Mexican immigrants and post-slavery African-Americans. They had common barriers to economic assimilation: racial/ethnic prejudice, relatively low formal educational attainment, and what I call socio-economic isolation. American slavery is the extreme form of socio-economic isolation of an immigrant group.  Isolation makes it difficult to exit bad situations and enter new job opportunities.

Hispanics and Mexicans

In 1970, there were 7.8 million native born Hispanics in the United States, and 1.8 million foreign born Hispanics. Between 1970 and 2014 the percentage of the entire American population that were foreign-born Hispanics rose from 0.8% to 6%.

During this 44 year span, the educational attainment of Mexican immigrants worsened due to the sharp rise of immigrants with poor formal education. Then, after about 2000 generally Hispanic educational attainment improved both absolutely and relative to native-born Americans.

Look at Hispanic vs. white high school graduation failures. In 1970, 55% of whites and 32% of Hispanics (24% of Mexican immigrants) had finished high school. The white to Mexican gap was 31%. In 1998, the white to Mexican gap had increased to 36% (84% vs. 48%). And, the gap between whites and Mexicans for college graduation also increased. Thus, looking only at education, Mexican assimilation worsened.

After 2000, the gaps declined. Hispanics gained greatly in high school graduation rates and in college education (mainly through community college). Mexican-origin persons still have a markedly lower rate of educational attainment then other Hispanics and then whites (see table 1 here). Still, in 2013 Hispanics accounted for 40% of high school dropouts compared to 13% in 1970

Black males

Now turn to black male mobility in the United States since the late 19th Century thanks to this May, 2017 article. By mobility, the authors mean the movement of sons up or down the percentiles of the national income distribution of similarly aged men relative to the position their fathers held in the distribution of all fathers decades earlier. They report:

“For those with the lowest earning fathers, between 72% (1880-1900) and 90% (1910-1930) of whites exceeded their father’s status compared to only 51% (1880-1900) or 68% (1910-1930) of blacks. The basic pattern is similar for cohorts of men observed in 1962 and 1973 surveys. White sons exceeded black sons in upward rank mobility by about 20 to 30 percentage points at the bottom of the fathers’ rank distribution. From this perspective, there is no clear evidence that the first cohort of post-Civil Rights era black sons (measured in 1973) fared substantially better in terms of intergenerational mobility than those that preceded them.

“Our results suggest that racial differences in intergenerational mobility have been the most important proximate cause of black-white income inequality from the Civil War until today. Analyses for the early and late 20th century suggest that weaker human capital accumulation in black children, conditional on parents’ economic status, has hindered the pace of intergenerational convergence in labor market outcomes.

“Even after school desegregation in the 1960s and 1970s, residential segregation continued to limit black children’s exposure to high social capital environments and their access to high-quality educational opportunities.”

The authors stress the role of education in economic mobility. Had they been able to measure the effect of racism, they would likely have introduced that. Another approach is to look at the degree of socio-economic isolation. In the early part of the 20th Century. Black men were somewhat more likely to be geographically isolated on farms than were whites, and far more likely to have lowest status farm work. During the middle part of the Century, their numbers grew in non-farm work, mainly unskilled and semi-skilled blue-collar jobs. These jobs have languished in the past few decades.

The authors prepared a weighted ranking of fathers’ income for black and white male children. Between 1990 and 1990 the white score rose from 38 to 56, having leveled off in the last decades. The gap between white and black fathers was, in 1900 was 32; it rose to 44 in 1962; and decreased slightly in 38 in 1990. The gap widened even while the rates of high school completion for white and blacks converged in the second half of the 20th Century.

Recent immigrants have diversified American religion

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Religious ties of recent immigrants are relatively low for Christian Protestants and more for all Christian denominations. The data is from 2003 but likely has been consistent since, if not more non-Christian. A 2015 update is here, which says that the percentage of unaffiliated has grown from 12% in 2003 to 20% in 2015.

“Immigrants are far less likely to be Christian than are Americans; and among those who are Christian, immigrants are far more likely to be Catholic or Orthodox than Protestant. Whereas 81% of adult Americans are Christian and 55% are Protestant, only 67% of new immigrants reported themselves to be Christian and just 17% were Protestant.

Whereas non-Christians together constitute only 4% of the U.S. population, they made up 20% of the 2003 cohort of new immigrants. Although Jews are represented at roughly the same level among Americans and new immigrants (1.4% and 1.3%, respectively), Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus are substantially over-represented compared with the U.S. population. Muslims comprise 7% of new immigrants but just 0.6% of all Americans; and for Buddhists the respective figures are 4.3% for immigrants and 0.6% for Americans, whereas for Hindus the figures are 5.6% for immigrants and 0.4% for Americans.

Whereas 12% of immigrants said they had no religion, the figure was 15% for adult Americans. Thus today’s immigrants are slightly more likely to subscribe to a religious affiliation than most Americans, but the denominations they do affiliate with are quite different from the population generally.”

Some religions are largely driven by immigrants:

The 2015 figures from Pew Research show that 87% of Hindu adults living in the U.S. are first-generation immigrants, 61% of Muslims were born overseas. Among Christian traditions, Orthodox Christians have the greatest share of members born abroad — 40%.

Portrait of an immigrant from Africa

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Claude Rawagenje is one of the 1.7 million sub-Saharan Africans in the U.S. He coaches immigrants on managing household finances in Portland, Maine. He meets every year with fellow Banyamulenges, from the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. “There are five thousand of us in America,” he told me. “At our annual national meetings we talk about how to get a job and work your way up, how to be a success without losing your culture, avoiding mistakes such as touching a co-worker.”

The sub-Saharan African immigrant population roughly doubled every decade between 1980 (starting at 130,000) and 2010 and in 2015 reached 1,700.000. Over 80% come from sub-Saharan Africa.

The largest sources are Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya. Roughly half come from English-speaking countries. New York City, Washington, DC, and Atlanta metropolitan accounted for about 27% of sub-Saharan Africans in the United States.

39 percent of sub-Saharan Africans (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 29% of the total foreign-born population and 31% of the U.S.-born population. Nigerians are 57% with college degrees. They are much higher high in the labor force (75%) than the native born population (62%).

They sent $5 billion in remittances in 2003. In 2015, over $5.5 billion was sent from the U.S. to Nigeria alone. American remittances accounted for 31% of GDP in Liberia and 22% in the Gambia.

Source of data: Migration Policy Institute

Snapshot of immigration in Washington State

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

An address on immigration I made last week to a Washington audience was an opportunity to make a brief profile of immigration in that state.

Washington provides insight into the role of immigration where job growth prevails. Between 1995 and today, the total population grew from 5.3 million to 7 million. During this period, the immigrant percentage of the state’s population doubled.

From 1900, long view

Over the past 100 plus years, the state tracked the rise, fall and then rise of immigrants. Between 1900 and 1910, the state’s entire population more than doubled, while the foreign-born share already high rose to 22%. Then, the immigrant share declined to a low point of 6% in 1970. It rose again after 1990, much faster by far than in-migration from other states, to about 15% today.

(See “Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State 1900 – 2012” for state by state profiles.)

Compare that with California, which since 1990 has had a 20%-plus foreign born share except for the middle decades in the 20th Century, and which went Democratic in the 1990s in response to an anti-immigrant push by Republicans. Compare with Tennessee, whose foreign born population was under 1% for the first half of the 20th Century and is now 5%.

In 1910, 123,890 Scandinavians accounted for 48% of the state’s 256,000 foreign born residents, which also included Germans and Asians.

Since 1990, hourglass growth

The very early 1900s was a time of very high foreign-born presence in extractive and west coast states such as Colorado, Montana, Washington and California, and in eastern states such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island (here).

Since the 1990s, immigrant workers rose in the typical hourglass way, but more so. At the top level (computer and healthcare workers, etc.), for every ten native-born college graduates moving into greater Seattle, five foreign-born college graduates move in. Compare with a 20 to 10 ratio of foreign-born college grads to native-born grads in Silicon Valley and a 2 to 10 ratio in Knoxville, Tennessee.

At the lower side of the hourglass are farm, construction, building maintenance, kitchen and other jobholders. Between 1990 and 2000, native working age people with less than a high school education declined by 3.8% while the foreign born working age persons with less than a high school education rose by 89%.

Unauthorized workers (almost entirely low formal education) in the state grew from under 50,000 to over 200,000 where it stands today.

Between 1990 and 2004, Washington was one of a few states in which working age foreign-born people increased while the native-born working age people increased, both significantly. It was one of eight states with at least a 20% growth in the native working age population, close to 100% or higher growth in the foreign-born workforce population, and an above average labor force participation rate. This means, in short, that on balance immigrants did not challenge native-born workers.

Wars for workers

The foreign-born working population with low formal education is stable to trending down, due primarily to better economic conditions in Mexico, and shrinking of the difference between Mexican wages and low paying jobs in the U.S. Farmers are engaged in a “wage war” in the wine producing counties in Washington, I was told.

And the Seattle Times reported in January of a “war for tech talent… Computer and mathematical occupations may sound like they belong to the tech world alone, but like business services they can pop up in different industries, from retail to health care. According to projections, jobs in computer and mathematical occupations in King County are expected to grow by 3.5 percent in 2017.”

The City of Seattle has an Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

The New American Economy has published a profile of the contribution of immigration to the Washington economy. The profile captures the hourglass profile of the immigrant workforce: “While foreign-born workers make up 16.8 percent of the state’s employed population, they account for 63.0 percent of the type of agricultural worker that includes those picking crops by hand. They also make up 45.1 percent of those working as software developers for applications and systems software, and 30.8 percent of dishwashers. Immigrants also play a role caring for the aging population: They made up 30.4 percent of personal care aides in 2014.”

(Thanks to Patrick Koenig, Washington Self-Employers Association)

Poll on perceptions of threats to American culture

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Analysis by PRRI and The Atlantic, based on surveys conducted before and after the 2016 election, reveals the degree to which white working-class Americans feel threatened culturally. Social scientist Robert Putnam reported as much in 2006. Cultural diversity is intimately related to immigrant populations, which spread out across the country after about 1990.

Survey findings:

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of white working-class Americans believe American culture and way of life has deteriorated since the 1950s.

Nearly half (48%) of white working-class Americans say, “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”

Nearly seven in ten (68%) white working-class Americans believe the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence. In contrast, fewer than half (44%) of white college-educated Americans express this view.

Nearly seven in ten (68%) white working-class Americans—along with a majority (55%) of the public overall—believe the U.S. is in danger of losing its culture and identity.

More than six in ten (62%) white working-class Americans believe the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens American culture, while fewer than one-third (30%) disagree. The views of white college-educated Americans are nearly reversed, with a majority (54%) expressing the view that immigrants strengthen the country.

Note on Robert Putnam’s survey on diversity: Around the year 2000, Robert Putnam studied the social impact of ethnic diversity. The results shocked him so much that he withheld reporting them for years. Fighting his personal pro-immigrant leanings, he concluded, “immigration and ethnic diversity challenge social solidarity and inhibit social capital.” He describes social capital as a collective capacity to spark civic participation and trust, keys to building democracy. In his 2006 lecture, “E Pluribus Unum,” Putnam warned, “The more ethnically diverse a residential context is, the less we trust …” He said the more racially diverse a community, the less trust exists among neighbors. Even trust within groups is lower in more diverse settings.

Where are they?

In no region do white working-class Americans comprise a larger proportion of the population than in the Midwest, where they account for more than four in ten (43%) Americans. Roughly three in ten Americans living in the Northeast (30%) and South (31%) are white working class, while only roughly one-quarter (26%) of those living in the West are white working class.

White working-class Americans also make up a disproportionate number of those living in rural areas. Just over half (51%) of Americans living in rural areas are white working class, compared to about one in five (22%) of those living in America’s urban areas.

Trump’s economic growth is dependent on immigrants

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

Economic growth simply stated comes from people who work, and work more productively.

Improving the economy implies more workers — either immigrants,  or inducing native-born workers to re-enter the workforce — and productivity gains.  Trump’s economic forecast implies almost doubling the growth in productivity from the current level of about 1.7% a year.

Assuming a doubling of productivity — starting now — fails, then its rosy forecast of 3% annual gross national product growth vs the current trend of 1.7% is utterly dependent on immigrant workers, perhaps even more than the government projects, if productivity fails to soar.  Here is why.

Between 1995 and 2005, half of the growth in the country’s workforce came from immigrants. That is far higher than in past modern decades Between 2005 and 2015, the workforce growth was 36% from off-spring of native born parents, 18% from off-spring of immigrants, and 46% from immigrants. Between 2015 and 2015, the off-spring of native-born parents will show a absolute decline in the workforce of 4.3 million, while off-spring of immigrants will grow by 5.7 million and immigrants by 3.5 million. No immigrants means a decline in total workers.

See Jason Furman and Pew Research Center.

 

Trump’s 3 Pronged Immigration strategy

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

The Trump Administration is making immigration its most important and ambitious domestic initiative. It seeks to lead in a once every 40 to 50 year cycle in the nation’s immigration policy.

As backdrop, America has long wavered between restrictive and permissive approaches to foreign migration. The nation waxed permissive from the 1880s until an explicitly racist restrictive act in 1924. Lyndon Johnson extended the civil rights movement by engineering with liberal Democrats a permissive reform in 1965. Since then, Washington has been paralyzed from expressing goals for immigration that come down to practical solutions to questions about goals, labor expectations, and enforcement.

Note below how in each of the three strategies, the administration will be leveraging and taking credit for some trends in place for years.

Prong One: changing expectations on unauthorized residency

Most published commentary, such as here, focuses on the crackdown on illegal migration and the 11 million unauthorized persons in the U.S. Trump’s people showed quickly that it absorbed the lessons from President Obama on the executive power over immigration. Obama protected classes of unauthorized persons; Trump applies his discretion to bar admittance, and to expand deportations. Obama deported millions, but his deportations fitted in the narratives about him of neither supporters nor opponents. The quickly emerging narrative of this administration is more coherent, sharply defined, relentless.

On March 20, President Trump said in a Louisville speech that illegal immigration at the southern border declined by 61 percent, “and we haven’t started.”

Illegal entries from Mexico have been declining for years.  A decline in the number of 15 – 40 year old Mexican males in the U.S. has been baked into demographics of Mexico for some time.

Prong Two: Domestic jobs

Expect executive branch-sponsored reports on how foreign workers combined with unfair foreign competition stymie the careers of native-born Americans.

American employers of low wage workers were already feeling the pinch of tight labor markets. Restaurants have a hard time finding cooks. Farms considering more mechanization, for instance to pick fruit. Meat processing plants are looking at automatic deboning machinery.

Computer engineers are in great demand, with salaries well over $100K. Google pays $177K for a recent bachelors graduate from a high ranked college.

A recent paper estimates that H-1B workers depress the wages all computer workers, and prompt native born workers to go into other fields. But the study also said that the program results in a larger total supply of computer workers. As information technology spurs all sectors, so grow the entire economy and the workforce.

Prong Three: Ethnocentrism.

The Administration nurtures a message that foreigners appear to fail in what I call civic culture – looking and acting like native Americans in public. Its focus on Muslims is a good example. Ironically, Muslim immigrants on the whole are very middle class, more American than Americans in their surveyed views.  As early as 2000, Robert Putnam of Harvard noted that rising immigration levels led to lower perceptions of civic culture.

I see the administration as selecting immigration as its signature policy through the 2018 and 2020 election cycles.

Fear among vulnerable immigrants

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire have small unauthorized and legally vulnerable immigrants. Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, an award winning reporter for the Valley News which covers two dozen towns in both states, profiles some of these individuals who are working.

He writes about “black market limbo” in which they are caught. Tamara, 43, raises three children in the Upper Valley. Born in English-speaking Africa, she holds a nursing degree, and recently earned $19 an hour in a healthcare job. Today she earns below the minimum wage cleaning houses. She over-stayed her visa, which an estimated 400,000 did in 2015 and which some two thirds of all 11 million unauthorized persons did.

She arrived with husband and two children in 2003 legally, went in, out and in legal status and got a registered nursing degree in 2010, divorced her abusive husband in 2013, and as of now is out of legal status. One of her children has been accepted at the University of Chicago. The Department of Homeland Security has voided any special protections for her that the Obama Administration introduced.

Hongoltz-Hetling reported earlier on the anxiety of unauthorized dairy workers in Vermont. He says that Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based advocacy group, estimates that 1,500 undocumented migrants now make up a majority of the Vermont farm workforce, producing dairy products for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and others.

A Vermont woman married a 21 year-old Mexican worker, then living in the South and with legal status. They are now in the late 20s, with a daughter. The husband and father works on a New Hampshire dairy farm and lost his legal status.

Dairy farms in the region survive in part by hiring Hispanic workers, many of them illegally here.

The husband was arrested in 2012 for illegal status, spent three months in detention, got out and eventually obtained a green card. But the card could be taken away, per Homeland Security, if he does so much as have a moving violation when driving.

In early May Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy filed legislation to protect unauthorized farm workers. Per the Vermont Digger, under their Agricultural Worker Program Act, foreign farmworkers who have worked in the United States in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years may earn lawful “blue card” status. Farmworkers who maintain blue card status for the next three or five years, depending on the total hours worked in agriculture, would become eligible to adjust to legal permanent residency and obtain their green cards.

Sold for Parts: Pro Publica’s report on chicken processing workers

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Pro Publica investigated the employment practices of chicken processing company Case Farms. The report, “Sold for Parts,” was released today, co-published by Pro Publica and The New Yorker.

Case Farms has four plants in North Carolina and Ohio. Michael Grabell visited its facilities and interviewed current and former workers. He visited villages in the Guatemalan state of Huehuetenango finding former Case Farms workers.

Here are some passages:

Finding its first Hispanic workers….

Scrambling to find workers in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Case Farms sent recruiters across the country to hire Latino workers. Many of the new arrivals found the conditions intolerable. In one instance, the recruiters hired dozens of migrant farmworkers from border towns in Texas, offering them bus tickets to Ohio and housing once there. When workers arrived, they encountered a situation that a federal judge later called “wretched and loathsome.”

Vulnerable workforces…

Case hired Guatemalan workers who were afraid to go back to Guatemala due to horrific threats of violence. “Mexicans will go back home at Christmastime. You’re going to lose them for six weeks. And in the poultry business you can’t afford that. You just can’t do it. But Guatemalans can’t go back home. They’re here as political refugees. If they go back home, they get shot.”

[In late 2016] OSHA determined that the company’s line speeds and work flow were so hazardous to workers’ hands and arms that it should “investigate and change immediately” nearly all the positions on the line. As the company fights the fines, it finds new ways to keep labor costs down. For a time, after the Guatemalan workers began to organize, Case Farms recruited Burmese refugees. Then it turned to ethnic Nepalis expelled from Bhutan, who today make up nearly 35 percent of the company’s employees in Ohio. “It’s an industry that targets the most vulnerable group of workers and brings them in,” Debbie Berkowitz, OSHA’s former senior policy adviser, told me. “And when one group gets too powerful and stands up for their rights they figure out who’s even more vulnerable and move them in.”

“It’s an industry that targets the most vulnerable group of workers and brings them in,” Debbie Berkowitz, OSHA’s former senior policy adviser, told me. “And when one group gets too powerful and stands up for their rights they figure out who’s even more vulnerable and move them in.”