Archive for the ‘Demographics’ Category

English language skills of low skilled immigrants

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The English language proficiency of immigrants has increased, most notably in the past ten or so years. This upward trend is seen in important groups such as Mexicans. But English language proficiency of Mexican immigrants declined in the 1990s. What was the impact of that, and why did it happen? The explanation has to do with demographics of immigrants and job growth in the 1990s.

Researchers looked at the impact on earnings and education when immigrants learn English. English proficiency helps in getting better paying jobs. It also enables the immigrant to obtain more formal education. Another study found that the benefits of English proficiency were primarily in becoming more educated. Young persons with English were more inclined to complete high school.

Demographic trends actually caused English proficiency among low skilled immigrants to decline. In 1990, 80% of individuals from non English-speaking countries said that they spoke English very well. In 2000, 70% said so. The decline is due to the large increase in immigrants, many unauthorized, in the 1990s.

During that decade, an hourglass profile of workers and jobs enlarged. There was a sharp increase in demand for service workers such as food preparation, janitors, gardeners, security guards, housekeeping ,cleaning and laundry workers. These low skilled jobs require limited language skills.

The English language skills of these jobholders declined in the 1990s. On factor in lower English proficiency is that with larger numbers of non-English proficient residents, these individuals were more able to find work that did not require English proficiency. This led to great linguistic and cultural isolation.

One researcher, writing in 2015 (Cassidy) found a large decline in the earnings of childhood immigrants in the U.S. between 1990 and 2010, and in particular during the 1990s. This drop in earnings has occurred across all age at arrival groups, but has disproportionately impacted lower-educated immigrants. A large decline in English language proficiency can explain much of this trend. A concentration of source countries (largely, through not entirely, due to an increase in Mexican immigration) has also contributed, mainly through the negative impacts it has had on English language proficiency and education levels.

See: Language Skills and the Earnings Distribution Among Child Immigrants, by Wang and Wang

The Decline in Earnings of Childhood Immigrants in the U.S., by Cassidy

Refugees in America, in historical context

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

The RAISE Act, proposed by Republican senators and endorsed by the White House, would cap annual refugee immigration at 50,000, which is well below the volume of many years. The Obama administration had targeted 110,000. In 2016, the EU set a plan to settled 22,000 refugees over two years. Put these figures in the context that over one million people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere have applied for refugee or asylum status in Europe.

There have been roughly two million refugees or asylees admitted to the U.S. since 1975. The net population growth of the U.S. since then has been 100 million. The vast majority of refugees has come from countries with or over whom the U.S. has been engaged in some form of conflict, such as Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iraq.  

The 1980 Refugee Act established formal criteria and legal statuses for the admission of refugees and migrants of humanitarian concern, including the establishment of an asylum system and the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Per Pew Research, historically, the total number of refugees coming to the U.S. has fluctuated along with global events and U.S. priorities. From 1990 to 1995, an average of about 112,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. each year. Refugee admissions dropped off to fewer than 27,000 in 2002 following the terrorist attacks in 2001.

The U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees in the fiscal year 2016, the most in any year during the Obama administration.  The Obama target was 110,000.

In fiscal 2016, the highest number of refugees from any nation came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo accounted for 16,370 refugees followed by Syria (12,587), Burma (aka Myanmar, with 12,347), Iraq (9,880) and Somalia (9,020). Over the past decade, the largest numbers of refugees have come from Burma (159,692) and Iraq (135,643).

Cambodians: Between 1975 and 1994, nearly 158,000 Cambodians were admitted. About 149,000 of them entered the country as refugees, and 6,000 entered as immigrants and 2,500 as humanitarian and public interest parolees

Vietnamese: At the Fall of Saigon, about 125,000 Vietnamese were admitted into the U.S. in 1980 there were 231,000 Vietnamese living in the U.S. Large-scale Vietnamese migration to the United States began as a humanitarian flow after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and, over time, transformed into one of family reunification. By 2014, 1.3 million Vietnamese immigrants resided in the United States representing 3 percent of the nation’s 42.4 million immigrants.

Russian Jews: Emigration of Russian Jews to the U.S. began in the early 1970s, at an annual flow of about 30,000, then dropped to a few thousand a year in the 1980s. The large majority of emigrating Russian Jews went to Isreal. Today there are less than one million persons in the U.S. who are Russian-born or have Russian-born parents or grandparents.

 

One quarter of second gen children at risk of losing parents by deportation

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

The American Immigration Council reports:

“Since fiscal year 2010, over a quarter million parents of minors who are American citizens have been deported. These numbers…. likely do not reflect all of families that have been torn apart. ICE’s reports only include those who volunteer information about their children; many may not disclose this fact, fearing for the safety and future of their children.”

An estimated six million U.S. citizen children live with at least one family member who is undocumented. This is  8% of all children in the U.S. Using Pew Research figures, this means that one quarter of the current second generation immigrant population under 18 (27 million) has at least one unauthorized parent.

(For second generation figures see appendix 1 here)

 

Australia: immigrant nation

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Australian residents have double the foreign born population than the U.S. in terms of percentage of total population and their foreign-born population is growing much faster than ours.

The Australian population, per its government report issued on June 27, grew 8.8% between 2011 and 2016 to 23.7 million. Compare that to the 3.8% U.S. population growth in the same period. Had U.S. grown as fast as Australia since 2011, we would have today 15 million more people and 10 million more workers.

1.3 million new migrants arrived in Australia since 2011, with China (191,000) and India (163,000) being the most common countries of birth. That is equivalent to about 75% of growth in population. Compare that with the growth of the foreign-born population in the U.S. of about one million a year, equivalent to 40% of the growth of the total U.S. population since 2011.

A quarter of Australian residents are foreign born, compared to 13% of the U.S. population. For the first time in its history, the majority of foreign-born persons Australia are from Asia, not Europe. Today, Mexican and other Latin American born immigration are probably half of our immigrant population while Asians comprise about 28%. But recent Asian immigrants outnumber Latin American immigrants.

New Brain Gain for the U.S.

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

The world is better educated, education is more international, and we are receiving the results without any change in official immigration policy. The politics of immigration today is largely unaware of these trends.

In New Brain Gain from the Migration Policy Institute, facts are presented.

The share of recent immigrants who have college degrees has been higher than the share of native-born Americans with college degrees since at least 1990, is not before. Since 2010, close to half of recent immigrants had graduated from college before arriving – 86% of Indians, one quarter of Latin Americans, and about 65% of Europeans. In contrast, about 30% of native-born Americans have college degrees.

The rise in college education among immigrants is mostly attributable to the increase in Asian immigration and the rise in the educational level of Latin American immigrants.

In about half the American states, recent immigrants are over 50% college educated and in six states (NH, MI, DE, DC, IA and VT) over 60% college educated. California, the most populous immigrant state, shows 50% of recent immigrants as college educated. A large state with a political leadership that tends to be restrictive in preferred policy is Texas. Its native-born population is 30% college educated; the total immigrant population is about 23% college educated, and about 45% of recent immigrants are college educated.

Still, most recent arrivals are not proficient in English. The share of recent immigrants who were English proficient was 34% in 2000 and in 2015 43%.  Between these years, unauthorized immigration from Mexico largely dried up and Asian immigration rose; also international student enrollment rose steeply.

The Migration Policy Institute includes all foreign person visas, including temporary work and student visas. Education is rising around the world, most notably re: American immigration among Latin Americans. Student visa volume has risen by a lot, and college enrollment has turned into an important immigrant channel for college-educated foreigners. This has happened even while the total share of global international students has declined from 23% in 2000 to 19% in 2013.

In sum, the world is better educated, education is more international and we are receiving the results.

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.

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 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.