Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

San Joaquin Valley

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

California’s San Joaquin Valley, from Stockton in the north to Arvin in the south, is 234 miles long and 130 miles wide. If you drive there from the Bay Area, in less than an hour the temperature will go from 57 to 97 degrees. It will keep rising. The radio stations are predominantly Spanish.

Measured by yearly production, the San Joaquin Valley is one of the highest-value stretches of farmland in the country, and is dominated by large growers who preside over a labor force of migrant workers in a way that has not changed much since Carey McWilliams described it in his 1939 book, Factories in the Fields. The revenue from all the crops harvested here and elsewhere in California is $47 billion a year, more than double that of Iowa, the next-biggest agricultural state.

When Cesar Chavez started organizing farmworkers in the 1950s, his son said, 12 to 14 percent of field hands “were still Okies and Arkies, the Steinbeck people,” and 8 to 10 percent were African-Americans brought in by cotton planters during the boll weevil infestation in the 1920s. About 12 percent were Filipino, and 55 percent were Mexican, “half of them Mexican nationals, the other half first-generation Americans like my father.”

Today, at least 80 percent of farmworkers are undocumented Mexicans, the majority of them Mixteco and Trique, indigenous people from the states of Oaxaca, Sinaloa, and Guerrero—the poorest regions in Mexico—who speak no or very little Spanish, much less English. Most of them have been working the fields for at least a decade, have established families here, and live in terror of la migra, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is called, and instant deportation or imprisonment that would wrench them from their children.

From “In the Valley of Fear” by Michael Greenberg in the New York Review of Books:

increase in American workforce due to immigration

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Starting in about 2015 and going forward, the net growth in the American workforce will be entirely due to immigration. The total working age population in 2015 was 173 million. Without immigration, that would decline by 2035 by 4%. With immigration, it will increase by 6%.

Between 2005 and 2014, the native-born American working age population increased by 4.8 million workers. The first generation immigrant workforce increased by 6.1 million and the second generation immigrant workforce by 2.4 million.

After 2015 and through 2035, the native-born working age population will decline by 8.1 million, the first generation immigrant workforce will increase by 4.7 million, and the second generation immigrant workforce will increase by 13.6 million.

From Pew Research


Home Care Workers and Immigration

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

Over one-quarter of home care workers [interviewed] were born outside the United States. Thirty-two percent report speaking English “not well” or “not at all.” Eighty-six percent are U.S. citizens.

Background: Home care ranks among the top 10 fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. Furthermore, from 2016 to 2026, home care workers are projected to add more jobs than any other single occupation, with over 1 million new jobs anticipated.

Today, over 2.1 million home care workers provide personal assistance and health care support to older adults and people with disabilities in their homes and in community-based settings across the United States. In the past 10 years, the provision of long-term services and support has increasingly shifted from institutional settings, such as nursing homes, to private homes and communities. To meet this changing need, the home care workforce more than doubled in size between 2007 and 2017.

In the years ahead, the rapidly growing population of older adults will drive demand for home care workers even higher. As evidenced by the growing workforce shortage in home care, employers are struggling to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of workers to meet demand. Their struggle is exacerbated by the poor quality of home care jobs. With a median hourly wage of $11.03 and inconsistent work hours, home care workers typically earn $15,100 annually. One in five home care workers lives below the federal poverty line and more than half rely on some form of public assistance.

The jobs are Personal Care Aides, Home Health Aides, and Nursing Assistants.

From U.S. Home Care Workers: Key Facts

The underclass scenario in immigration

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Reihan Salam writes about the risks of a persistent, multi-generational underclass of American residents. This class compromises immigrants and their subsequent generations who do not get the education and social skills needed to rise up economically in the American economy.

Very large numbers of Latin Americans are here, legally or unauthorized, with little formal education and limited English.

Despite what we like to think about our “knowledge” economy, some 25 million jobs — 15 percent — do not require either much formal education or English language proficiency. At the lowest level of education, five million workers today have no more than an eighth-grade education. Four million of them are foreign-born. They comprise a special underclass marked by far greater economic and social isolation and vulnerability to exploitation than native-born workers, even if these foreigners feel better off than they were in their home countries.

Within our native-born labor force, barely 1 percent have an education level of eighth-grade or lower. Among Mexican and Central American workers, that share is 34 percent, or about 3.3 million workers. For the rest of the foreign-born labor force, it’s 4 percent, or about 600,000 people.

In all likelihood, at least half — and possibly more — of these 4 million foreign-born workers are living here illegally. Many of them likely came to the United States over the Mexico-U.S. border during the 1990s and early 2000s.

These 4 million workers crowd into farming and low-level construction jobs, cooking, housekeeping, groundskeeping and building cleaning, among other occupations. The jobs can be socially isolating. It is easy to avoid, for years, learning more than rudimentary English.

Waiting tables, retail sales and personal-care jobs are often off limits for many of these foreign workers because of their limited English, as well as a lack of social skill sets that native-born Americans take for granted.

See Reihan Salam, Melting Pot of Civil War.

For education figures go here.



Rising number immigrants who are college grads and/or speak English

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Today, immigrants account for 17% of all college educated adults in the U.S. compared with 10% in 1990. The rise in college education and English proficiency began about ten years ago – when Asian immigration overtook Latin American immigration.

When you take into account all foreigners in the U.S., 48% of foreigners 25 years or older came to the United States between 2011 and 2015 with college graduates compared to 31% of US born adults and 2015. Half of the college educated immigrants are from Asia. There are more recent college educated foreigners who arrived from Latin American than from Europe.

This high rate exists because of temporary visa holders, who (in the 2011-105 period) were 84% college educated compared with 33% among those awarded green cards in this period. The college education rate of recent naturalizations was 31%.

The percentage of recent immigrants with college degrees is 10% to 20% higher in most states than the college educated percentage of native born persons. The college education rate of recently arriving foreigners 25 years or older ranges from the low 80s in Vermont and District of Columbia to 25% in Arkansas (and lower in MT and SD).

Still, most immigrants arrive with limited English proficiency – 57%, through that percentage has declined from 66%. As of 2015, 34% of immigrants were bilingual, meaning they spoke English well and another language at home. Another 16% spoke only English at home.

The following is the percentage of all immigrants 18 or older who spoke only English at home or who were bilingual (spoke English “very well”), by date of arrival:

1986 – 1990: 35%

1996- 2000: 34%

2006 – 2010: 36%

2011- 2015: 43%

From here.


Hispanic purchasing and voting power

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

In some states, Hispanics account for a large percentage of spending power and tax revenues overall. In both Texas and California, Hispanic households had more than $125 billion in after-tax income in 2015, accounting for more than one of every five dollars available to spend in each state that year. In Nevada, a state with a rapidly growing Hispanic population, their earnings after taxes accounted for more than one-sixth of the spending power in the state. In Arizona and Florida, Hispanics contributed almost one out of every six dollars in total tax revenues in 2015.

Hispanic Americans who only recently gained eligibility to vote could be a big factor in the 2020 election. Between 2015 and 2020, a projected 5.7 million Hispanics will gain eligibility to vote for the first time, most by turning 18 and aging into the electorate. In six states carried by Republicans in 2016, including Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the estimated population of newly eligible Hispanic voters will exceed Donald Trump’s 2016 margin of victory. In Michigan, a state Trump carried by 10,704 votes, almost 46,300 Hispanic Americans will gain eligibility by 2020.

From here.


Labor law violations and low wage immigrant workers

Friday, October 12th, 2018

A groundbreaking study of low-wage occupations in three metropolitan cities found that almost 26% of workers failed to receive the legally required minimum wage…and of those eligible for overtime, a whopping 75% did not receive the pay they were entitled to. Many of the industries most prone to violations such as wage theft and unpaid overtime are also industries that are most heavily populated by immigrant workers. Indeed, as of eight years ago, over half of all workers born in Mexico and Central America were employed in seven notoriously low-wage, high-violation industries: construction, restaurants, retail, landscaping, agriculture, food manufacturing, and building services…

A 2013 study found that 41% of Latino immigrants working in the agriculture, construction, hospitality, and poultry processing industries in Nashville, Charlotte, New Orleans, southern Georgia and several towns and cities in northern Alabama had experienced wage theft.

Expanding the scope of immigration reform to include labor standards enforcement is fundamental to ensuring that the rights of immigrants are upheld and all workers, immigrants or otherwise, stand on equal footing not just with each other, but with their employers as well.

From Janice Fine and Gregory Lyon, Segmentation and the Role of Labor Standards Enforcement in Immigration Reform, Journal on Migration and Human Security, 2017

Rich countries need to improve immigration policies

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

The Economist says, “Migrants can make the world more prosperous, but voters need convincing…. The influx should be orderly and legal as well as humanely handled. Migrants should be encouraged to work. They should be helped to fit in. And they should be seen to pay their way.

America’s flexible labour market makes it easy for migrants to find entry-level jobs, and its meagre welfare state means they have to. The unemployment rate for immigrants is 4% compared with 16% in Sweden, where benefits are fatter and unions have negotiated industry-wide pay scales that price unskilled migrants out of jobs (see chart 2). The National Academies of Sciences found that even immigrants who drop out of high school are net contributors to the public purse if they arrive in America before the age of 25

Cultural assimilation is startlingly quick in America. Fully 60% of foreign-born Latinos speak mostly Spanish, but by the next generation this has fallen to 6%, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Some 15% of newlywed foreign-born Hispanics in 2015 were hitched to non-Hispanics; among US-born Hispanics it was a whopping 39%. For Asians the figures were 24% and 46%.

And elsewhere…..

Nearly every rich country has an ageing population and a shortage of workers to care for them. Yet surprisingly little effort has been made to train foreign workers to meet this demand. The German government, anticipating a huge shortfall of geriatric nurses, is training young Vietnamese in Hanoi in both nursing and the German language. But such examples are rare.

Raffy Fermin moved from the Philippines to the United Arab Emirates to fix cars. Locals love flashy vehicles, but would not be seen dead under one. So Porsche, a German firm, sponsors a school in Manila that teaches young Filipinos how to service its machines. When they qualify, Porsche offers them jobs in the Gulf.

The Economist August 25 2018

We don’t plan for native-born workforces

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

The 19th Century saw foreign workers brought into the U.S. through private sector workforce recruitment, such as Chinese workers on railroads, to fill jobs otherwise filled by native-born Americans. American food processing companies in the 1990s recruited undocumented workers at staff their factories. But there has been little of the reverse, that is, a concerted hiring of native-born American workers to staff positions that otherwise would be filled by immigrants.

An example of a possible “Hire An American” policy to recruit native-born American doctors for rural medical care.

Today, one quarter of all practicing doctors are foreign-trained (the great majority being foreign born). In rural areas, and in low income areas, the percentages are higher. What would it take to design and implement a strategy to make them more native-born?

There is no federal agency nor any major research/policy institute which routinely examines native born / immigrant workforce dynamics. There is no tried and tested method of designing such a strategy. And no one in Washington is talking about building this capacity.

And, for purposes of staffing rural physician slots with more native-born doctors, building such a strategy is very difficult. Let’s look at the forces that would complicate a plan, for instance, to financially incentivize graduates of American medical schools to locate for extended periods in rural areas”

1. Labor shortages and surpluses come in waves and both influence and are influenced by immigration.

2. There is a lot of internal sorting / shifting within occupations. For instance, native born doctors tend to concentrate in higher compensated specialties and live in relatively more amenable locations.

3. There can be a lot of sorting / shifting between occupations — for instance, using nurse practitioners a lot more for primary care than physicians. In my dozen years in Vermont, I am far more likely to see a nurse in primary care than to see a physician.

Business Roundtable grades U.S. poorly on immigration policy

Friday, September 14th, 2018

The Business Council wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on August 22, signed by 39 CEOS. Citing a backlog of green card applications, the Business Council wrote that in the past year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “has issued several policy memoranda over the past year” that inject uncertainty into skilled employment by foreigners. “Few will move their family and settle in a new country if, at any time and without notice, the government can force their immediate departure–often without explanation.” The Council also opposes the impending decision to bar the spouses of H1-B visa holders from working.

The Business Council’s ranking of immigrant policies

Overall ranking: The Council on a scale of 1 to 5 ranks the U.S. at 2.3, Germany at 4.5, the U.K. at 3.9, and Canada at 3.3. “Based on a comprehensive examination of 10 advanced economies to identify and evaluate the best immigration policies to promote economic growth, the United States ranked 9th out of 10 competitor countries, ahead of only Japan, a country historically closed to outsiders. This analysis found that America’s near-bottom ranking among major advanced economies is due to U.S. laws and regulations that impose unrealistic numerical limits and excessive bureaucratic rules on hiring workers that the country’s economy needs.”

For use of highly skilled workers, the Council’s scores are the U.S. at 2.0, Germany at 5.0, the U.K. at 4.0, and Canada at 3.5.

Here is what the Council says about skilled labor immigration:

U.S.(2.0): More than half of applicants for H-1B visas each year are denied the opportunity to work due to the low H-1B quota.

Germany (5.0): Applications for high-skilled people are rarely turned down, there is no annual quota and Germany’s membership in the European Union (EU) provides access to 500 million people who can work without any immigration processing. The process is clear enough that some employers do not need attorneys to apply. The EU Blue Card provides an easy option for hiring non-EU skilled professionals, including no labor market test.

Canada (3.5): There is no annual quota for hiring high-skilled foreign nationals. Employers must pay a market wage; recent requirements for employers to test the labor market have made the process much more difficult for employers.