February 24, 2007

Wealth of statistics on illegal immigrants in the U.S.

This is a quick guide to postings I have made in the past. These and other postings are listed in the right hand column segment called “popular posts.” You will find even more information if you go to the hyperlinks in each of these postings.

Go here to find estimates of the number of illegal workers by state and their share of the state’s workforce. Data drawn in part from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Go here to find federal government estimates of illegal immigrants, by country of origin and by when they arrived in the U.S.

Go here to find recent research findings on the impact of all immigrant as well as illegal immigrant labor on native born American wages.

And here for types of work performed by illegal immigrants and other data on these workers, from the Pew Hispanic Center.

February 19, 2007

Robert Feenstra on the powerful dynamics linking U.S. and Mexican workforces

Technology advances proceed apace while America is outsourcing jobs to developing countries. These two forces combine to increase the level of migration in the world. Much of this migration is into the U.S. by far the biggest in-migration country in the world. The net effect of this cycle is to improve middle class lives in the U.S. but worsen work prospects for poorly educated Americans.

Robert Feenstra of U.C. at Davis, who has long been a student of economic productivity, made a presentation on “Globalization and its Impact on Labor.” He goes a long way to describing the overwhelming power of forces behind the growth of low wage immigrant labor (including illegal labor) in the United States.

The essence of Feenstra’s story, leavened with information he does not include, is this:

Manufacturing labor in both the U.S. and Mexico have not benefited in the past 10-15 years even while the service workforce has benefited, by capturing the lion’s share of increases in the compensation pie.

This is in part because manufacturing growth in Mexico, expected due to NAFTA, failed to take place except in isolated areas like along the American border (Manquiladora). Thus good manufacturing jobs were not available at anywhere near the numbers needed for the ocuntry's work population. In part, a disproportionate share of economic gains went to service, not manufacturing jobs. The manufacturing sector was also hurt by American and Chinese competition.

Relatively disadvantaged workers in both countries have been making hard decisions on where or if to work. With economic distances expanding between workforce segments, making catch-up less probable, choices narrow down to if and where to migrate.

Mexicans, especially those at the lower end of that country’s education scale, have little prospects of rewards in Mexico and have come to the U.S. to, in effect, make middle class life more comfortable for Americans. Poorly educated American workers have been withdrawing at increasing rates from the workforce, either into part time work, idleness or disability pensions.

Here in the style of Powerpoint bullets, is the story:

One, technology is concentrating economic rewards in the service sector workforce and leaving production (i.e. manufacturing) stagnant. This is happening in developed as well as developing countries – The U.S. as well as Mexico. In the U.S. service workforce relative wages compared to manufacturing wages grew strongly since the mid 1980s.

Two, production jobs in the U.S. are being off-shored and an increasing number of service jobs as well. The next effect is the increase the average compensation of better educated services workers – in both the U.S. AND in the countries providing the off-shored labor.

Three, this offshoring has been responsible for about 1% of the 2.5% – 4% annual productivity growth in the U.S. economy. This is a big deal.

Fourth, in Mexico manufacturing worker wages have not grown appreciatively with NAFTA, which was supposed to set off an economic boom. Feenstra does not discuss farm workers in Mexico, but one gets the impression that both farm and manufacturing wages in Mexico have lagged.

Fifth, there has been a huge transborder shift of workers at the lower end of the wage and education scale.

Mexican labor has moved into the U.S. just as the most vulnerable American workers have been withdrawing from the American workforce. Not addressed by Feenstra, the labor force participation of poorly educated blacks is very low.

Some 70% of the American workforce with less than 8 years of education are foreign born, and 22% of the workforce with 8 to 11 year’ education.

And American workers are heading out the door. The SSDI (disabled worker insurance program) of the U.S. has been growing – very sharply in the past few years. Those exiting the labor market for federal disability pensions are largely manufacturing workers with limited education. In 1995, there were 1.1 million SSDI awards made. In 2004, there were 2.2 million made.

The European Union has sought from the beginning to stem migration from poorer new members by systmatically suppprting infrastructure and manaufacturing growth in the new members.

See Feenstra here.

Immigration’s impact on American wages by educational level of workforce

Here are important research data on the impact of how foreign born workers hurt some and help other Americans in wages. Note that these figures pertain only to wage impact. They do not address the lower costs of goods and services and greater corporate productivity which immigration and its companion free trade bring


Ten percent of U.S. born workers have less than a 12 years’ education. Foreign born workers make up 70% of all workers with less than 9th grade education, and 22% of workers with 8-11 years’ education. In these education categories, foreign born workers MARKEDLY DEPRESS wages by about 4%.


Eighty percent of U.S. born workers have between 12 and 16 years’ education. Foreign born workers make up 13% of the HS graduate workforce and 10% of the some college work force. (13% of all workers with HS degree, 10% with some college, and about 15% with college degree.)

For the HS graduate and some college workforces, foreign born workers SLIGHTLY INCREASE wages very slightly, by about 1% - 2%


Ten percent of U.S. born workers have masters, professional or doctoral degrees. Foreign born workers make up 15%, 18% and 30% of these workforce categories, respectivelly. These foreign born workers MARGINALLY DEPRESS wages, by about 0.2%.


About 4.9% of the American workforce is made up of illegal workers. Few of them have a HS degree or higher education. They GREATLY DEPRESS wages for all workers with less than a HS degree – by 8% -- and MARGINALLY INCREASE the wages of the more highly educated workforce – by about 1%.

The data come from Table 5 and Figure 8 of a 2/8/07 presentation by Robert Feenstra of U.C. at Davis. he draws from research by Gianmarco Ottaviano and Giovanni Peri, about whom I have posted.

Poorly educated immigrant workers hurt, help American workers: 2005 study

Let's call this the Home Depot Effect: poorly educated workers compete for jobs, and benefit better educated workers by lowering the cost of goods while stimulating middle class growth.

Following is the abstract of a paper written in 2005 by Gianmarco Ottaviano and Giovanne Peri for the Centre for Economic Policy Research Discussion Paper No. 5226, 2005, (alternative version National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 11672, 2005: "Rethinking the gains from immigration: theory and evidence from the U.S."

Recent influential empirical work has emphasized the negative impact immigrants have on the wages of US-born workers, arguing that immigration harms less educated American workers in particular and all US-born workers in general. Because US and foreign-born workers belong to different skill groups that are imperfectly substitutable, one needs to articulate a production function that aggregates different types of labor (and accounts for complementarity and substitution effects) in order to calculate the various effects of immigrant labor on US-born labor.

We introduce such a production function, making the crucial assumption that US and foreign-born workers with similar education and experience levels may nevertheless be imperfectly substitutable, and allowing for endogenous capital accumulation.

This function successfully accounts for the negative impact of the relative skill levels of immigrants on the relative wages of US workers. However, contrary to the findings of previous literature, overall immigration generates a large positive effect on the average wages of US-born workers. We show evidence of this positive effect by estimating the impact of immigration on both average wages and housing values across US metropolitan areas (1970-2000). We also reproduce this positive effect by simulating the behavior of average wages and housing prices in an open city-economy, with optimizing US-born agents who respond to an inflow of foreign-born workers of the size and composition comparable to the immigration of the 1990s.

February 9, 2007

Tidbits from the first year of this blog

In passing into the second year of, I have compiled some notable entries from the first year -- Peter Rousmaniere

Relative role of U.S. in transborder migration

Number of cities in world with at least one million foreign born residents: 20
Number of these cities in the United States: 8
Number of these cities in India or China: zero
Size of foreign born population in the world today: 200 million out of 6.5 billion (3%)
Size of foreign born population in U.S. Today: 35 million out of 300 million (12%)

Relative role of China in intraborder migration

Number of internal migrants from rural to urban areas in China: 150 million out of total population of 1.2 billion.

Off-shoring of work and the polarization of the American workforce

MIT professor David Autor argues that highly routine mental and manual jobs are being outsourced overseas or eliminated by automation, but that mental and manual jobs involving a level of irregularity in decision making and face to face servicing are growing. This concept explains why some manual jobs are expected to grow in the future along with the growth of high end mental jobs.

Impact of all immigrant workers on American workforce

Share of new jobs 2002 – 2012 to be filled by an immigrant: one out of eight

Size of illegal workforce

Illegal workers in U.S. as of early 2006: about 7.3 million

Illegal workers as % of total U.S. workforce: 4.9%

Illegal workers as % of total U.S. workforce in jobs requiring less than high school degree and without strict documentation requirements: 9/7%

Where do illegal workers work?

Per the Pew Hispanic Center:

Some 55-60% of these undocumented workers are in formal employment and are paying social security taxes

About 3 million of the 7.2 million illegal workers are in occupations in which undocumented workers account for at least 15% of total employment in that occupation. These include construction labor (25%), cooks (20%). Maids and housecleaners (22%), and grounds maintenance (25%). among roofers, 29% of the total workforce is estimated to be undocumented workers.

One half of undocumented working men here are single. But a phenomenal 94% of undocumented men work compared to 83% for native Americans.

Economic impact of illegal population in U.S.

A Texas study says that illegal household payments of consumer and property taxes (via rent or home ownership) exceeds by about 30% the taxpayer burden for education, healthcare, and incarceration.

Do illegal workers displace American workers?

Some say yes, others say no.

It appears that illegal worker compensation is about 30% below what it would be with 100% worker protections afforded to Americans. Go here for a case study.

Waves of Hispanic work immigration since 1980s

1980s: agricultural workers, mostly on farms
1990s: meat processing workers, mostly in rural; towns
2000s: urban work including residential construction: in cities and suburbs

Employment of Indians in the U.S.

They own 20,000 hotels, or 50% of all economy hotels in the U.S.
There are 40,000 Indian physicians in the U.S, or about 4% of all doctors

Role of foreign born entrepreneurs in the U.S.

They are involved in one quarter of all technology start-ups.

Is there a nursing shortage?


Percentage of Philippine nurses working outside the Philippines


Foreign nurses in the U.S.

300,000, or about 11% of all nurses.

Mexican population in U.S.

Percentage of Mexican workforce that is working in the U.S.


Remittances from Mexicans in U.S. to Mexico

$25 billion in 2006

Total remittances from all parts of world to Latin America

$54 billion in 2005

Number of community-based immigrant worker centers

upwards of 200

Foreign day laborers in the U.S.

Estimated number on any particular day:

117,600 at 500 sites in the U.S.

Percentage who speak English very well:


February 7, 2007

The net fiscal impact of illegal immigrants? New Jersey and Texas studies clash

A study of New Jersey asserts that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers $2.1 Billion. A Texas study last year asserted that the burden on taxpayers was $1.2 Billion. New Jersey’s total population is 8.4 million and it estimates its illegal immigrant population at 372,000. Texas in contrast has 20.8 million people of which 1.4 million are estimated to be illegal immigrants. How can New Jersey have almost double the taxpayer burden with less than 40% of the population of illegal immigrants?

And consider this: the New Jersey study authors say it is irrelevant what the contribution of illegal workers make in payroll taxes (yes, many pay payroll taxes) and consumer taxes. Why? Because for every illegal worker there is a legal American sitting on a bench ready to take the job if vacated! This is like saying that the taxpayer burden of red headed left handed persons is so many millions, and it doesn’t matter how much they pay in various taxes. Nor do the authors address a more important question, a step up in complication: what illegal immigrants add to the gross state product. Talk about one-sided accounting!

Per the Pew Hispanic estimates (you will find them on the right column under “undocumented workers by state”) there are 256,000 illegal workers in New Jersey and 1.024 million in Texas (2005 figures).

Go here for the Texas study, which I posted on in December.

The New Jersey study estimates these burdens on taxpayers: schools, $1.85 billion; healthcare $200 million; incarceration, $50 million. The Texas study has these comparable figures: schools, $967 million; healthcare $58 million; incarceration, $130 million.

The Texas study estimates that illegal households pay $867 million in consumption taxes and, per their rental or owned residences, $582 million in property taxes. With other payments, total payments by illegal immigrants into the public fisc are estimated at $1.581 billion, or $424 million higher than the total $1.156 billion burden on taxpayers.

February 1, 2007

American immigration and world trade: the connection

From 1994 until NAFTA (The American Free Trade Agreement) took effect in 2001, “total trade with Mexico had increased by a factor of 2.3, the number of intracompany transferees crossing the border had risen by a factor of 5.6, the number of temporary workers by a factor of 4.8 and the number of tourists by a factor of 2.9.” This from an article by Douglas Massey, the Princeton professor about whom I have posted before. I read this week an article he wrote, as part of a WESAW course I am taking in my town.

Go here to find the article on migration.

Massey takes a global perspective on immigration: International migrant flows “are intimately connected to broader processes of economic integration that for the past half century have been shrinking the globe.”

Flows of commodities, services and information are matched by flows of people. The industrialized countries are caught in a “contradiction”: they want to globalize everything except the flow of people. America is dead center in this contradiction. As I posted before, we have the largest number of cities with at least one million in foreign born residents, but our politicians are largely fearful of immigration.

“Immigrants arrive because the same processes of globalization that create mobile populations in developing regions and a demand for their services in global cities also create links of transportation, communication politics and cultures to make international migration easier and cheaper.”

-- from Great Decisions, 2007 edition, the Foreign Policy Association

October 13, 2006

Barriers to occupational health services tolow wage workers in CA

The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers Compensation, a highly visible state agency, has released its study of “Barriers to occupational health services for low-wage workers in California.” This is the largest scope and best investigated study of its kind. I have previously posted on numerous other more limited studies about garment, hotel and meat processing workers, and day laborers. I have copied below the entire Executive Summary.

This study says several important things either explicitly or by omission. First, work safety and access to workers compensation protections are pervasive problems among low wage workers -- in particular, immigrant workers. The authors are effectively confirming other studies, in this broad and deep examination.

Second, the authors say by their silence that the California state agency with the greatest practical influence over correcting these problems is, well, useless. The authors appeared to have never even interviewed executives at the massive state run State Compensation Insurance Fund. SCIF is by far the largest workers comp insurer in the state, in fact the largest in the world, and whose seven person board includes three union representatives.

I queried the Commission last summer about why SCIF is not even mentioned. I did not receive a direct answer. I am left with the feeling that one state agency, CHSWC, decided that SCIF was useless as either a source of information or as a agency of work safety and workers comp system improvements.

Who are these low wage workers? The authors write, “Officially, over 3.7 million Californians are employed in occupations whose median wage is less than $10 an hour, the definition used in this report to classify workers as “low-wage.” Perhaps as many as two million more may be employed in California’s expanding underground economy. The majority of low-wage workers are nonwhite and immigrants. Typical low-wage occupations in California include restaurant and food service employees, health aides, cashiers, janitors, hotel cleaners, assemblers, security guards, farm laborers, retail clerks and sewing machine operators, among others.

“Overall, nearly two-thirds of the 25 leading occupations reporting non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses are low-wage occupations. Heavy physical exertion, exposure to toxic substances and blood borne pathogens, repetitive motions performed bent over or in awkward postures for hours and slips, falls and other accidents are some of the common risk factors.”

The Executive Summary:

Continue reading "Barriers to occupational health services tolow wage workers in CA" »

October 6, 2006

Disparities in education, income among second generation immigrants

The Migration Information Service published this week a study of education, language speaking, and income patterns among Latin American and Asian second generation immigrants in southern California (San Diego) and southern Florida (Miami/ fort Lauderdale). I plucked out of the study some interesting figures on relative educational attainment and income of the family in which the second generation immigrant – usually at their mi 20s – is living.

At the low end of educational attainment and family income are Cambodian and Laotians in southern California and Haitians in southern Florida. In contrast, “At the other end, the combination of high parental human capital, a high proportion of intact families, and a neutral context of reception (as defined above), led second-generation Chinese and other Asians to extraordinary levels of educational achievement, only matched in South Florida by the offspring of upper-middle-class Cuban exiles who attended private schools. Vietnamese youths also did quite well despite low average levels of parental education.”

The schedule below lists the region, the nationality, the percentage of high school students who did not go onto higher education, and the average family income. The educational attainment percentage is the share who did NOT go onto higher ed.

These education figures don’t jibe well with national average. Nationally, about 36% do not go onto higher ed. Higher ed utilization rates are notoriously complicated to estimate. The higher education participation figures by nationality seem much too high. However, I think we can use these figures to
*compare* the nationalities below. Chinese second generation people are most active in higher education among all groups. Cambodians and Laotians have the worst rate for post high school education.

How to read the list example: Among Filipinos in southern California, 2nd generation persons were less inclined to pursue post high school education than were Vietnamese, other Asians and Chinese. The median income of the households in which the second generation resides is, for Filipinos, about $55,000 – much higher than any other listed nationality for that region.

Southern California:
Cambodian, Laotian 45.9%, $25,179
Chinese 5.7% $33,611
Filipino 15.5%, $55,323
Mexican 38% $32,585
Vietnamese 12.6% $34,868
Other, Asian 9.1%, $40,278
Other, Latin American 25.5%, $31,500

South Florida
Colombian 17%, $45,948
Cuban (Private School) 7.5%, $70,395
Cuban (Public School) 21.7%, 48,598
Haitian 15.3%, $26,974
Nicaraguan 26.4% $47,054
West Indian 18.1%, $30,326

September 16, 2006

An analysis of WC law protections for illegal immigrants

This summer, the American Educational Institute published, for people like insurance claims executives and insurance brokers, an analysis of workers comp benefits for illegal aliens. Here it is.

August 11, 2006

Pew Hispanic Center: immigration has not hurt American workers

The Washington Post reports on a new study concluding that American workers have not been harmed by immigrant labor. From the summary of the report, below, I’m not sure how much confidence I have in it. A major limitation of all the immigrant impact studies I have seen is that they do not take into account concentration of immigrant labor in industries which may be in fast growth mode and also cyclical. New immigrant labor in a region may depress wages of Americans in some fields and actually stimulate better wages and job growth for Americans in other fields by providing scarce resources of low wage labor. Skilled American construction workers can be said to benefit by the supply of unskilled and semi-skilled immigrant labor.

The article includes these passages:

High levels of immigration in the past 15 years do not appear to have hurt employment opportunities for American workers, according to a new report. The Pew Hispanic Center analyzed immigration state by state using U.S. Census data, evaluating it against unemployment levels. No clear correlation between the two could be found. Other factors, such as economic growth, have likely played a larger role in influencing the American job market, said Rakesh Kochhar, principal author of the report and an economist at the Pew Hispanic Center.

The study used Census Bureau data to compare the influx of immigrants and unemployment rates in each state between 1990 and 2000, a period of robust economic growth, and between 2000 and 2004, a period of slower growth. "We are simply looking for a pattern across 50 states, and we did not find one," Kochhar said. "We cannot say with certainty that growth in the foreign population has hurt or helped American jobs."

In the 10 states with the top employment rates from 2000 to 2004, for example, five states showed a high influx of immigrants while the other five showed little growth in the foreign-born population. "Even in relatively slow economic times, a relationship fails to reveal itself," Kochhar said.

Some economists expressed reservations about the technique yesterday, arguing that such broad statewide data do not give an accurate picture of immigration's effects on the labor market. "There's an age, gender and educational component to this story that this report does not address," said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Between 1990 and 2000, he said, immigrant workers did not take jobs away from American workers "because the strong economy was creating enough jobs to employ everyone who was looking for work." But in the past five years, a subset of the workforce -- native-born men age 16 to 24 with high-school diplomas -- have in fact been displaced by immigrants, he said. "We argue that immigrant labor has changed the nature of work in a very negative way," Sum said.

On the local level, too, some experts disputed the findings of the Pew report. While educated workers with specialized skills are not likely to be displaced by foreign-born workers, young unskilled laborers have felt the pinch in recent years, said Steven A. Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies in the District.

A recent study done by the center shows that the immigrant share of the young workforce in Maryland and Virginia nearly doubled in the past five years, peaking at 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in 2005. "Native workers who have little education in Maryland and Virginia are dropping out of the labor markets in droves" as the number of immigrants grows, he said. "Unskilled workers only account for a fraction of the total economic output, but if immigration plays a role in even a part of [the trend], that's something we should be concerned about."

The report pointed out that immigrants typically move to booming areas of the country with low unemployment rates. "It's unclear as to whether immigrant workers help to cause that boom, but they certainly haven't detracted from it," said Randy Capps, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute.

July 6, 2006

Third study out on labor rights violations on Katrina cleanup

The Advancement Project issued today its report, "Worker exploitation in New Orleans is running rampant." I have not studied it yet but conversations with people involved or who know the study inform me that the researchers found -- as did those involved with the two other studies I have posted on -- violations of workers comp standards. I will post more as I dig into it. to find these other studies, type "katrina" in the search box.

June 24, 2006

Second report on breakdown of worker safety in Katrina cleanup

Two study teams have told me that workers compensation coverage has pretty much disappeared for the estimated 5,000 undocumented workers engaged in the Katrina cleanup. I have already posted about the study conducted by Tulane University and UC Berkeley. I spoke with Phuong Pham, a professor at Tulane and one of the leaders of that team. She told me she was not aware of any injuries being treated within the workers comp system. The second study was supported by the
NDLON - the National Day Labor Organizing Network -- and UCLA, and the main researcher was Tomas Aguilar. He told me the same thing.

June 20, 2006

Jim Platner's analysis of higher construction deaths among Hispanics

I have found on the net a powerpoint presentation of Platner's important analysis of higher hispanic construction fatalities.

It was originally published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine and must be purchased.

An analysis of post construction fatality data extending through 2003 can be found here.

June 16, 2006

Awareness of workers comp, safety regulation is troublingly low among immigrant workers

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health asked people at community health centers about workers compensation and OSHA. They drew from a sample of 1,428 persons who had worked within the past year. Average age was 34.8; 66% were born outside the United States. Their employment fairly represents the distribution of immigrant work in Massachusetts.

Findings, as reported by Letitia Davis, of the Occupational Health Surveillance Program, who ran the survey, were:

Nearly 39% of CHC patients reported that they had never heard of workers' compensation. Awareness of workers' compensation varied by self-reported race, ethnicity, and place of birth...... Hispanic and Black workers had the lowest reported awareness of workers' compensation - over 48% of both groups reported never having heard of workers' compensation before the date of their interview. White workers were the least likely to report (21.1%) that they had never heard of workers' compensation.

Cross-tabulated by place of birth, workers born in countries other than the United States or Puerto Rico included the highest percentage of persons (51.8%) reporting that they had never heard of workers’ compensation, followed by respondents born in Puerto Rico (41.6%) and the mainland United States (15.3%).....Awareness also varied by occupational category: lack of awareness of the workers' compensation system was highest among operators, fabricators and laborers (47%). Managerial and professional specialty workers were least likely (17.0%) to report that they had never heard of workers' compensation.

The overall percentage of respondents reporting no awareness of OSHA was 62.7%. Awareness varied somewhat by race; over 70% of those reporting their race as Hispanic/Latino had never heard of OSHA. White workers, however, were most likely to report awareness of OSHA (37.7%).

Contact info for Dr. Davis:, (617) 624-5626.

June 14, 2006

Illegal immigrant workers face serious risks in Katrina cleanup

A new study by researchers at Tulane University and the University of California, Berkeley reveals that undocumented workers are being abused even as they provide critical help to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the most costly natural disaster in American history. This according to the press office of Tulane University. It goes on:

The comprehensive study of more than 200 workers surveyed in March 2006 by researchers at the Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer at Tulane University and the International Human Rights Law Clinic and the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley discovered vulnerability of undocumented workers, including severely reduced access to health care, wage discrepancy and unsafe working conditions.

The study found that almost half of the reconstruction workforce in New Orleans is Latino, and 54 percent of that group is undocumented, meaning 25 percent of all workers are undocumented Latinos. In the aftermath of the storm, the federal government allowed special waivers of immigration laws, which made it easier for employers to hire undocumented workers. Two-thirds of Latino construction workers have moved to the area since Katrina hit in 2005. But 87 percent of the undocumented workers were already living in the United States before they moved to New Orleans. This means that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did not cause an influx of illegal immigrants across the US border as many have reported.

The study, Rebuilding After Katrina: A Population-Based Study of Labor and Human Rights in New Orleans, finds:

On average, documented workers received significantly higher wages than undocumented workers peforming the same work ($16.50 per hour average for documented vs. $10 per hour for undocumented.).

Construction workers frequently report experiencing problems receiving wages owed, especially undocumented workers.

Further findings:

Continue reading "Illegal immigrant workers face serious risks in Katrina cleanup" »

June 8, 2006

Working conditions in a 800 person poultry plant in Iowa

In May The Forward carried a story, “In Iowa Meat Plant, Kosher 'Jungle' Breeds Fear, Injury, Short Pay”. It is about work for 800 workers starting at $6.25 an hour in one of the largest kosher chicken processing plants in the country. The plant is located in Postville, a 2,500 population town in the rural northeastern part of the state. Writes the author Nathaniel Popper: “The company's business model has been economically successful. AgriProcessors is the only kosher slaughterhouse in America producing both beef and poultry. While AgriProcessors has been expanding steadily, its closest competitor in the poultry industry, Empire Kosher, recently fired employees and cut back operations. Union leaders at Empire Kosher said that the cutbacks were necessary because Empire pays its lowest-ranking unionized employees close to $3 more an hour from the outset than AgriProcessors' lowest employees, and provides full benefits.

Even among nonunion plants, experts say AgriProcessors' salaries are low. "I have not heard of a six-dollar wage since I started working in Nebraska in 1990," said Lourdes Gouveia, director of the Office of Latino Studies at the University of Nebraska, where she studies working conditions in the meat packing industry.

He goes on: “Juana and other employees at AgriProcessors — they total about 800 — told the Forward that they receive virtually no safety training. This is an anomaly in an industry in which the tools are designed to cut and grind through flesh and bones. In just one month last summer, two young men required amputations; workers say there have been others since. The chickens and cattle fly by at a steady clip on metal hooks, and employees said they are berated for not working fast enough. In addition, employees told of being asked to bribe supervisors for better shifts and of being shortchanged on paychecks regularly.”

Thanks to Jason Barab of Confined Space for alerting me to the story.

May 18, 2006

"Blood Sweat and Fear" - Meat and Poultry Plants (Human Rights Watch, 2005)

The following is the executive summary of a 185 page report issued by the Human Rights Watch in January 2005. The report is entitled Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants. (The Summary is also available in Spanish: Sangre, sudor y miedo: Derechos de los trabajadores en las plantas cárnicas y avícolas de Estados Unidos.

This is probably the most referenced report on working conditions of immigrant workers in the huge meat processing industry. It is unfortunately light on injury and fatality data, but is worth looking at as it puts the problem of occupational health and safety of these workers into a broad, international context.

The Executive Summary:

Workers in American beef, pork, and poultry slaughtering and processing plants perform dangerous jobs in difficult conditions. Dispatching the nonstop tide of animals and birds arriving on plant kill floors and live hang areas is itself hazardous and exhausting labor.1 After slaughter, the carcasses hurl along evisceration and disassembly lines as workers hurriedly saw and cut them at unprecedented volume and pace.

What once were hundreds of head processed per day are now thousands; what were thousands are now tens of thousands per day. One worker described the reality of the line in her foreman’s order: “Speed, Ruth, work for speed! One cut! One cut! One cut for the skin; one cut for the meat. Get those pieces through!” Said another: “People can’t take it, always harder, harder, harder! [mas duro, mas duro, mas duro!].”

Constant fear and risk is another feature of meat and poultry labor. Meatpacking work has extraordinarily high rates of injury. Workers injured on the job may then face dismissal. Workers risk losing their jobs when they exercise their rights to organize and bargain collectively in an attempt to improve working conditions. And immigrant workers—an increasing percentage of the workforce in the industry—are particularly at risk. Language difficulties often prevent them from being aware of their rights under the law and of specific hazards in their work. Immigrant workers who are undocumented, as many are, risk deportation if they seek to organize and to improve conditions.

Continue reading ""Blood Sweat and Fear" - Meat and Poultry Plants (Human Rights Watch, 2005)" »

May 12, 2006

Census Bureau reports on Hispanic growth rate

I have been searching for the best media report on these findings, and Jim Quiggle sent me a copy of CNN’s. Hispanics have been and will continue to account for over a third of the country’s population increase. “The Population Resource Center cites statistics showing the average Hispanic woman will have three children in her lifetime; it's 1.8 for non-Hispanic whites.”

It mutes the illegal-versus-legal debate," said Linda Jacobson, director of domestic programs for the Population Reference Bureau in Washington. "We need to be more focused on how we meet the needs of children in immigrant families who are citizens.

Just look at the age demographics: “Census statistics also show that 45 percent of children under age 5 are from a racial or ethnic minority. The median age for Hispanics -- the point at which half are older and half are younger -- was 27.2 years in 2005. It was 30.0 years for blacks and 40.3 years for white non-Hispanics.”

April 16, 2006

Another look at immigrant workers and declining labor force participation

The bumper sticker to this posting is that among several factors causing relatively fewer Americans to be employed or look for work, one of them is higher numbers of illegal workers. And one of the factors buried in the statistics of incremental decline in labor force rates is a positive one: not working in order to invest in education. Many young Americans continue to arrive at adulthood poorly educated, and they are vulnerable regardless of the presence of illegal workers. It is short-sighted to isolate the illegal workforce out of a more complex and more difficult set of conditions.

Continue reading "Another look at immigrant workers and declining labor force participation" »

April 13, 2006

Economists surveyed about impact of illegal immigrants

On 4/13 The WSJ reported a survey of economists about the undocumented workforce’s impact on the economy. Basically, the economists say that the workers have made it difficult for some Americans workers, but that the overall impact is positive. According to the article, “Nearly 80% of economists who responded to questions about immigration in the latest forecasting survey said they believe undocumented workers have an impact on the bottom rung of the wage ladder. Twenty percent believe the impact is significant, while 59% characterize the effect as slight. The remaining 22% said there is no impact.”

About half of the economists said the presence of illegal immigrant workers has slightly reduced the overall rate of inflation in the economy, while 8% said the inflation rate has been reduced significantly. But 41% said they believe undocumented workers have had no impact at all on inflation.

On balance, nearly all of the economists – 44 of the 46 who answered the question – believe that illegal immigration has been beneficial to the economy. Most believe the benefits to business of being able to fill jobs at wages many American workers won't accept outweigh the costs.

April 11, 2006

A few handy figures about immigration to work in the U.S.

There is no easy way to estimate the net change from year to year in foreign workers coming to the U.S. and the number of foreign workers in the U.S. at any time. The following figures can help. One can infer from these figures that upwards of half of the net increase in foreign workers has been illegal workers. The entire set is divided among official permanent admissions, official temporary admissions, and illegal entrants.

Number of foreign-born persons in the U.S. today: 35 million

Subset of 35M who have become American citizens: 12 million

Subset of 35M who are eligible for citizenship but have elected to become citizens as yet: 8 million

Simple math suggests that about 15 million foreign born people in the U.S. are neither citizens nor on a citizen track. The estimated 12 million illegal immigrants make up the large majority of these persons.


Number of persons (adults, children, retirees) formally admitted into the U.S. each year for permanent residence (which can lead to citizenship): roughly about 1 million

(This and other official figures below are rough due to volatility from year to year, driven in part by paperwork backlogs)

Subset of these 1M persons who are working age adults: 400,000?

Subset of these 400,000 +/- working age adults who were admitted on the basis of employment criteria (“employment based preferences”) as opposed to family ties, other: about 150,000


Number of new H-1B temporary professional workers formally admitted each year (i.e. Bill Gate's programmers): 95,000

Number of new H-2A temporary agricultural workers (special agricultural workers) admitted each year: 200,000? less those returning

Number of other temporary workers admitted for miscellaneous programs: to be found but probably well under 50,000 (types: H-2B, H-1C, E, L, O, P, R, for nurses, ministers, ahtletes, etc, etc.)


Number of new illegal workers each year: roughly 350,000

April 5, 2006

developed world pop growth: mostly immigrants

The Financial Times on April 4 reported on a United Nations prediction that population growth in the developed world in the future may be almost entirely from international migration.

“Given the low fertility levels in developed countries, net migration has become the major source of population growth, accounting for half that growth in 1990-95, two-thirds in 1995-2000 and three-quarters in 2000-05,” the UN said. “If current trends continue, between 2010 and 2030, net migration will likely account for virtually all growth....“In addition, the governments of countries of origin have become more proactive in encouraging the return of their citizens and strengthening ties with their expatriate communities.”

The report, prepared for this week’s meeting of the Commission on Population and Development, said there were 191m migrants globally, up from 175m in 2000 and 155m in 1990. That represented a slowdown in growth compared with the 15-year period between 1975 and 1990, which saw 41m new migrants. But between 1990 and 2005, 33m out of 36m migrants moved to the developed world, with the US alone gaining 15m and Germany and Spain each accounting for 4m. The UN report said, “Today, one in every three migrants lives in Europe and about one in every four lives in northern America

Douglas Massey of Princeton: a blast of fresh air on Mexican immigrant workers

Douglas S. Massey, Princeton University professor, has closely studied Mexican immigrants and comes up with energetic, constructive interpretations of worker migration into the United. States. I will summarise several of his books. He also wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Monday. One of his most intensely argued points is that border security-alone advocates hugely misperceive what the Mexican worker migration is all about. Massey's broad view puts our immigration issues in the context of 160 million immigrants troughout the world.

Crossing the Border (2004) (co-editor)

The full title: “Crossing the Border: Research from the Mexican Migration Project” (2004). Per the review in Amazon, the book draws from “the largest, most comprehensive, and reliable source of data on Mexican immigrants currently available". It is a myth-breaking book:

Continue reading "Douglas Massey of Princeton: a blast of fresh air on Mexican immigrant workers" »

April 4, 2006

Study: without immigrants, almost 2 million poorly educated Americans would be back in labor force.

The Center for Immigration Studies issued a report in March which estimates the negative impact of poorly educated immigrants upon the employment of poorly educated Americans. It finds a strong impact.

Dropping Out: Immigrant Entry and Native Exit From the Labor Market, 2000-2005” by Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies points to higher unemployment rates by industry and lower workforce rates of Americans, by age cohort. He estimates that without the increase in immigrant labor, amost 2 million Americans with a high school degree or less would be in the labor force.

He concludes in part:

The findings of this report call into the question the idea that America is desperately short of less-educated workers. In 2005, there were 3.8 million unemployed adult natives (18 to 64) with just a high school degree or less and another 19 million not in the labor force. Moreover, between 2000 and 2005 there was a significant deterioration in the labor market prospects of less-educated adult natives. The labor force participation has fallen significantly for both natives without a high school degree and those with only a high school degree. Had it remained the same in 2005 as it had been in 2000, there would have been an additional 450,000 adults without a high school degree in the labor force and 1.4 million more adult natives with a only high school degree in the labor force. This decline in particularly troubling because these workers already have lower labor force participation and higher unemployment than more educated workers. They also tend to be the poorest Americans.
Among teenage natives (age 15 to 17), labor force participation has also declined. At the same time that natives have been leaving the labor market, the number of immigrants with a high school degree or less in the labor force increased by 1.6 million. Wage growth among less-educated adult natives has also lagged well behind more-educated workers.

March 29, 2006

The great demographic shift in the American workforce

In the past ten years, the American workforce has been growing in total largely on the strength of increases in foreign born labor. Among the ranks of the employed, foreign-born worker growth’s role has been even more pronounced.

An article in the May 2002 issue of the Monthly Labor Review has data to show the impact of foreign-born labor. The authors reported that for the year 2000, three quarters of the growth in the workforce was from foreign labor. In that year, employment among non foreign-born workers actually declined by 491,000 while employment among foreign-born workers rose by 897,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more recently that in 2004 the total number of foriegn-born workforce was about 21.4 million, or 14.5.% of thr total labor force. Slightly under half of the workforce growth between 2002 and 2004 was foreign-born.

Foreign born labor has entered employment rolls in an hour glass fashion: a small absolute number in the highly trained professions, a much larger number and much larger proportional impact in the bottom quarter of jobs as defined by educational requirements.

Between 1996 and 2000, foreign-born labor accounted for 49% of the increase in the workforce. (As the 2000 data above show, this percentage increased in 2000 alone.) For workforce members without a high school diploma, the total number in America declined by 393,000 but the total number of foreign-born workers with less than a high school diploma went up by 654,000. Thus, foreign-born workers were rapidly filling the ranks of the low educated that were being emptied by non-foreign born.

For the occupational category of “operators, fabricators and laborer,” total workforce growth in 1996-2000 was 105,000. However the workforce growth among foreign born was 664,000, indicating that non-foreign born ranks declined while foreign born workers flooded in.

March 26, 2006

Skilled labor immigration into the U.S.: some highlights

A 2004 report on skilled workforces highlights some key trends in skilled immigrants working in the United States. I have excerpted passages on foreign supply of scientists and engineers, the foreign presence among Silicon Valley leaders, and the broad effect of globalization.

The study is titled Preparing Chemists and Chemical Engineers for a Globally Oriented Workforce: A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable (2004)

I have previously posted on foreign trained physicians in the United States, the U.K., Canada and Australia.

Effects of globalization on the domestic supply of IT workers

If in 1980 the United States had closed its borders and not allowed IT to globalize as it did, there probably would not have been the IT boom enjoyed in the 1990s. The IT industries would not have been able to deliver the productivity gains and price declines that they did.

To summarize, research by economists has concluded that in recent decades globalization appears to have been more beneficial for more-skilled workers in the United States than for less-skilled workers. It also seems that the boom time in real wages since 1995, driven largely by IT, has had a lot to do with globalization. These gains from global integration are widely distributed across skill groups.

Continue reading "Skilled labor immigration into the U.S.: some highlights" »

March 22, 2006

Meat processing: an industry engineered to hire immigrants

In the past twenty years the meat processing industry has evolved into a more rural, immigrant-staffed and corporately organized industry. To get to full picture you need to appreciate the interweaving of a number of apparently disparate trends which, together, evolved into a huge immigrant hiring and employment machine: in a way, a completely privatized, but hardly improvised, guest worker program. The industry model was: larger, more efficient and non-union plants; recruitment of immigrant labor to rural sites; and deskilling of jobs in part to facilitate immigrant hiring.

As of 2003, about 43% of meat processing labor was Hispanic, up from 33% in 1998 and 15% in 1990. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 27% of this meat processing workforce is undocumented workers. This trend line suggests that half of the workforce today is Hispanic. Below we describe industry growth and ruralization; concentration, deskilling, and planning for immigrants.

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March 18, 2006

Does immigration depress wages of native Americans?

Two prominent economists each with many years’ experience in immigration research come down on opposite sides of this question:

David Card of UC Berkeley thinks the adverse impact is scant. His most recent paper is titled,” Is the new immigration really so bad?”

George Borjas of Harvard thinks the adverse impact is large –the new eave of immigrants depresses wages by 3 to 4%. He stakes his position out in a paper presented through the Center for Immigration Studies.

I'll use a simple model below to highlight that which researchers have to grapple.

Continue reading "Does immigration depress wages of native Americans?" »

March 14, 2006

Study of Hispanic North Carolina Poultry Workers

A September 2005 press release by the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center reports that North Carolina poultry workers show a higher than reported rate of work injuries, suggesting a need for uniform enforcement of safety regulations. This study goes along with a study of Oakland garment workers and a study of Las Vegas hotel workers (to be profiled) in describing the working conditions of specific immigrant groups within a specific labor market. All of these studies suffer from a limited understanding of the dynamics of workers compensation. The lead author declined to discusss the methodology problems with this study. Yet it remains a good introduction to immigrant workers in the poultry industry.

The survey was conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in collaboration with Centro Latino of Caldwell County, Inc. The survey was based on a representative sample of Latino workers in six counties in western North Carolina: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin.

Poultry processing is the largest and fastest growing sector of the meat products industry, according to the authors. In 2002, North Carolina and four other states accounted for 70 percent of all broiler production in the United States. Many of the workers are immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala, according to the authors.

Continue reading "Study of Hispanic North Carolina Poultry Workers" »

March 11, 2006

The working immigrant and social mobility in America

Let us look at the analyses of job growth in the past ten years and projected into the 2010 and ponder how job trends are reinforcing barriers to upward mobility.

They show an hourglass shape: strong, in some instances spectacular growth of knowledge economy jobs, shrinkage of routine jobs (such as office workers) and steady growth of many manual jobs. I have noted the influx of relatively small numbers of highly educated foreigners into the American workforce, for instance physicians.

David Autor of MIT in examining these trends says the American workforce is being polarized. (I have noted Autor’s findings here.)

The more we delve into this trend, the more we see structural changes that inhibit upward migration of low income workers. That does not mean we are doomed to a good jobs/lousy jobs future. It does mean, however, that government policy must be harnessed to lessen these rigidities.

The polarization challenge is at its most acute within the huge undocumented workforce of America. Handcuffs, not a handshake or even a handout, are looming into the futures of these workers.

We are losing through off-shoring net about 300,000 routine office types of jobs a year. We are adding net about 300,000 undocumented workers a year. Today undocumented workers are about (per the Pew Hispanic Center, with some adjustments) about 7.5 million undocumented workers -- illegal immigrants -- a year. they make up a quarter of the workforce in some job, particular high risk, such as roofers. One half (!) of new immigrants in the U.S. are undocumented workers. (I have presented Pew data here and here.)

It is important to realize that these manual jobs are increasing, and will continue to increase. Would anyone disagree with the proposition that an undocumented worker enjoys significantly less upward mobility than does a legal American working alongside him or her, or a legal immigrant?

March 7, 2006

Types of work done by illegal immigrants and other data from the Pew Hispanic Center

The Center released today a report which updates its findings from 2005. I have listed below some of the more interesting findings:

1. The total undocumented population now is 11.5 – 12 million. The population continues to grow at 500,000 per year. There are in total about 37 million immigrants in the United States.

2. The number of undocumented workers as of 3/05 was 7.2 million. (I extrapolate that to a March 2006 estimate of 7.6 million ) This is equal to about 5% of the American workforce.

3. Some 55-60% of these undocumented workers are in formal employment and are paying social security taxes, which go into a Social Security suspense file when the Soc Sec # is unverifiable.

4. About 3 million of the 7.2 million workers are in occupations in which undocumented workers account for at least 15% of total employment in that occupation. These include construction labor (25%), cooks (20%). Maids and housecleaners (22%), and grounds maintenance (25%). among roofers, 29% of the total workforce is estimated to be undocumented workers.

5. One half of undocumented working men here are single. But a phenomenal 94% of undocumented men work compared to 83% for native Americans. Undocumented women participate much less than native women in the workforce (54% vs. 72%) This explains th image of a very large single male workforce as the tpyical undocumented immigrant.

March 6, 2006

Study: Fatal occupational injuries among Asian workers

There is a one in four chance that a victim of grocery store robbery-related murder will be Asian, and a foreign born Asian at that.

In her report on Asian worker fatalities in the October 2005 issue of the Monthly Labor Review, Jessica Sincavage notes that between 1999 and 2003, 775 workers of Asian descent suffered fatal work fatalities, which equals 3 percent of all work fataltites in the given time frame. More than half of Asian worker fatalities were the result of an assault or violent act, far higher than for all fatalities (10%).

Who are the Asians who die at work? Indians, 23%; Koreans, 18%; and Vietnamese, 14%, are the three largest nationalities.

she writes:

Continue reading "Study: Fatal occupational injuries among Asian workers" »

March 4, 2006

Data on immigrants (2000 - 2005)

The Center for Immigration Studies has summarized the findings of the March 2005 issue of the Current Population Survey (CPS). I include a few of the highlights below, from its December 2005 study, Immigrants at Mid-Decade: A Snapshot of America's Foreign-Born Population in 2005

The 35.2 million immigrants (legal and illegal) living in the country in March 2005 is the highest number ever recorded -- two and a half times the 13.5 million during the peak of the last great immigration wave in 1910.

Between January 2000 and March 2005, 7.9 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the country, making it the highest five-year period of immigration in American history.

Nearly half of post-2000 arrivals (3.7 million) are estimated to be illegal aliens.

Immigrants account for 12.1 percent of the total population, the highest percentage in eight decades. If current trends continue, within a decade it will surpass the high of 14.7 percent reached in 1910.

Of adult immigrants, 31 percent have not completed high school, three-and-a-half times the rate for natives. Since 1990, immigration has increased the number of such workers by 25 percent, while increasing the supply of all other workers by 6 percent.

February 27, 2006

The day laborer: characteristics of the individual

This is my fourth extract of data from On the Corner, the nationwide survey of day laborers. Most day laborers are Mexican, and did not know about day labor before coming to the U.S. Tenure in the U.S.: 19% under one year; 41% between 1 and 5 years. Tenure in the day labor market: 44% for less than one year. The overwhelming majority (86%) are seeking regular employment. In fact, 57% have previously held regular jobs in the past, mainly in construction, restaurants and manufacturing, and day labor work for them appears to be a transition to another regular job. Thu many move in and out of regular employment.

Over half have been married, and 29% have children born in the U.S. and thus U.S. citizens. Schooling: 53% have no more than 8th grade education; 42% have between 9 and 12 years of education.

In my earlier postings, I described the high injury rate, wage scales, and types of day laborer employers.

February 25, 2006

New study on economics of rural immigrant workers

Thanks to the Immigration LawProf blog for alerting me to a new study of immigrants in rural areas.

The Urban Institute has come out with a new book on rural poverty in America, and the effect of rural migration by immigrants.

It describes The New Rural Poverty: Agriculture and Immigration in California as follows:

Migrants arrive, many from Mexico, to fill jobs on farms and in farm-related industries, usually at earnings below the poverty. Leaders of rural industries are adamant that a steady influx of foreign workers is necessary for economic survival. But the integration of these newcomers is uneven: many immigrants achieve some measure of the American dream, but others find persistent poverty, overcrowded housing, and crime. The New Rural Poverty examines the effect of rural immigration on inland agricultural areas in California, farm areas in coastal California, and meat and poultry processing centers in Delaware and Iowa. The authors examine the interdependencies between immigrants and agriculture in the United States, explore the policy challenges and options, and assess how current proposals for immigration reform will affect rural America.

The New Rural Poverty: Agriculture and Immigration in California, by Philip Martin, Michael Fix, and J. Edward Taylor, is available from the Urban Institute Press

February 17, 2006

Immigrant worker injuries at day labor

According to On the Corner, the nationwide survey of day laborers, almost all urban day laborers are immigrants, and mostly from Latin America. They reported very high injury rates.

75% consider their jobs dangerous
19% had suffered a work injury requiring medical attention.
67% missed work due to a work injury
22% of those injured lost at least one month of work.

By these figures alone it is hard fully to compare their experience with that of native-born Americans in roughly the same occupations. But it would be reasonable to conjecture that immigrant day laborers’ frequency of injuries, and the severity of the injuries, is twice that of native-born Americans.

For earlier postings about On the Corner, go here, here and here.

Number of undocumented workers by state and their workforce share

I can now provide an estimate of the number of undocumented workers in each state and their share of that state's totwl workforce.

The Pew Hispanic Center issued in March, 2005 an estimate of the size and characteristics of the undocumented population in the county as of March 2005.

The Pew report says that in 2004 there were 7 million undocumented workers out of a total undocumented population of 10.3 million. This comes to a workforce – to – population percentage of 68%. This is extremely high compared to national figures of close to 60% and reflects the reality that most undocumented people are here to work.

I used Pew’s figures for March, 2005, and – applying growth rates that it found for the recent past -- I extrapolated them to find a January 1, 2006 undocumented workforce of 7.3 million. Per Pew, The undocumented worker population is growing at about 300,000 per year (net of entrants and exiting persons), out of a net total undocumented immigrant growth of 500,000 per the Pew Hispanic Center. The workforce growth is close to 4% annually, far ahead of the growth of the American citizen workforce.

This comes to about 4.9% of the American workforce, which is about 150 million. I have estimated for each state the number of undocumented workers and their share of the state’s workforce as of December 2005.

You can read the rows below as follows. Take Florida for example. The total undocumented workforce in January 2006 is about 621,743. This is 7.1% of Florida’s workforce. What about the 14.2% figure? – See below.

Continue reading "Number of undocumented workers by state and their workforce share" »

February 16, 2006

One out of eight new jobs to be filled by immigrants, 2002 - 2012

A new study by the American Immigration Law Foundation estimates that job growth for the foreseeable future is heavily dependent on immigration. Economic Growth and Immigration: Bridging the Demographic Divide, says that:

U.S. economic growth projections for 2002–2012 are predicated on a growing supply of workers that likely will not be found in the native-born population alone. Absent a change in current immigration laws, undocumented immigrants will likely account for 1 in 8 new workers between 2002 and 2012. Rather than creating an orderly process by which needed workers enter the United States from abroad, static limits on employment-based immigration have diverted labor migration to undocumented channels or clogged the family-based immigration system.

February 13, 2006

Where immigrant workers live in the United States

The Migration Immigration Source makes available online a huge amount of data on foreign-born residents of the United States, as mostly reported through the 2000 census. Dated in some instances as that may be, one can use the website quickly to find where foreign-born people of any nationality live in each state or region.

How many immigrants are employed? Let's say 40%. I'll look into it. I haven't found a better estimate.

I did two quick searches, on Thai immigrants throughout the country, and Russians living in the Northeast and in particular New York.

Thai immigrants in the United States: In 2000, throughout the United States there were 169,801. Of this total, 37% lived in California; next highest is Minnesota at 5%.
Russian immigrants in the Northeast and New York: According to the 2000 census, there were 153,596 foreign born from Russia in the Northeast. The foreign born from Russia represented 2.1% of the Northeast's total foreign-born population of 7.2 million. Of the 53.6 million people in the Northeast, the foreign born from Russia accounted for 0.3% of the total population. The foreign born from Russia in the Northeast constituted 45.2% of the 340,177 foreign born from Russia in the United States, and Russians in New York constituted 27.8% of foreign born from Russia in the United States.

February 12, 2006

What day laborers earn by hour, month, year

On the Corner, the recently published nationwide survey of day laborers, reports that 7.4% of work assignments pay $7 per hour or less; 22% between $7 and $9.99; 46% between $10 and $12; and 25%, over $12.

Assignments paying over $12 usually involve high skill work such as electrical or plumbing work.

For total monthly earnings, in a good month the median total income is $1,400. In a bad month the median is $500.

The authors report that even with workers who have more good than bad months, it is unlikely that their total annual wages exceed $15,000.

See a prior posting for the report's analysis of the kind of work days laborers perform and whom they work for.

February 6, 2006

National Employment Law Project on wage abuses

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) describes itself as a non profit law and policy organization advocating on behalf of low-wage, unemployed and immigrant workers. It has recently published two papers on civil and criminal penalties for non-payment of wages. Non-payment, delays in payment, and failure to pay overtime are common complaints among immigrant workers.

The two papers are Fifty state chart of penalties for unpaid wages and Criminal penalties for failure to pay wages

February 5, 2006

serious worker injuries by ethnic group, job and diagnosis

A commentor wrote to ask if I have for work fatalities of immigrants a breakdown by types of jobs, particular immigrant group most effected, etc. I have an indirect positive answer to this question, in the form of an ethnic analysis of work related hospitalizations. Researchers published in October 2005 a study of work related hospitalizations by ethnic groups in Massachusetts.

According to the authors,

This article reports on the use of statewide hospital discharge data to describe patterns of serious occupational injuries (that is, injuries requiring hospitalization) among racial and ethnic groups in Massachusetts.

The authors present a breakdown of hospitalizations by medical diagnosis, job and ethnic breakdown: white, black, Asian, American Indian, Hispanic, and other or unknown. They were able to show a relationship between the type of job and the type of injury (for instance: burns = restaurant work).

In a later posting I will summerize their findings.

February 3, 2006

Occupational fatalities of immigrants

The June, 2004 issue of the Monthly Labor Review published Foreign-born workers: trends in fatal occupational injuries, 1996–2001 by Katherine Loh and Scott Richardson. From the text:

New immigrants who arrived in the United States during the 1990-2001 period accounted for 50.3 percent of the growth in the Nation's civilian labor force. That is, one out of every two net new labor force participants during this period was a new foreign immigrant. Historically, Current Population Survey (CPS) figures show that foreign-born workers, who accounted for 1 in every 17 workers in 1960, increased their share of the labor force to one in eight by 2000.
As the share of foreign-born employment has increased, so has the share of fatal occupational injuries to foreign-born workers. Yet, while the share of foreign-born employment increased by 22 percent from 1996 to 2000 the share of fatal occupational injuries for this population increased by 43 percent. This increase in fatal work injuries among foreign-born workers occurred at a time when the overall number of fatal occupational injuries to U.S. workers declined by 5 percent. As a result, the fatality rate for foreign-born workers has not mirrored the improvement seen in the overall fatality rate over this period. In 2001, the fatality rate for all U.S. workers decreased to a series low of 4.3 per 100,000 workers, but the fatality rate for foreign-born workers recorded a series high of 5.7 per 100,000 workers.

February 2, 2006

Size of the illegal alien population (2000 - 2005)

We will be addressing this matter multiple times as we explore in the future alternative ways of measuring the size of this population. This posting focuses on methods of measurement.

The Center for Immigration Studies summarizes how the Federal Current Population Survey handles this matter, in its Immigrants at Mid-Decade: A Snapshot of America's Foreign-Born Population in 2005.

It is well established that illegal aliens do respond to government surveys such as the decennial census and the Current Population Survey. While the CPS does not ask the foreign-born if they are legal residents of the United States, the Urban Institute, the former INS, the Pew Hispanic Center, and the Census Bureau have all used socio-demographic characteristics in the data to estimate the size of the illegal population.15 Our preliminary estimates for the March 2005 CPS indicate that there were between 9.6 and 9.8 million illegal aliens in the survey. It must be remembered that this estimate only includes illegal aliens captured by the March CPS, not those missed by the survey. By design this estimate is consistent with those prepared by the Census Bureau, Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS), Urban Institute, and Pew Hispanic Center.16 While consistent with other research findings, it should be obvious that there is no definitive means of determining whether a respondent in the survey is an illegal alien with 100 percent certainty. We estimate that in 2000, based on the March 2000 CPS, that there were between seven and 7.2 million illegal aliens in the survey. This means about 2.5 to 2.7 million, or about half of the 5.2 million growth in the foreign born between 2000 and 2005 was due to growth in the illegal population. We also estimate that 3.6 to 3.8 million or almost half of the 7.9 million new arrivals are illegal immigrants.

Polarization of American labor market

A recent paper has proposed a “polarization” of the American labor market. This trend is directly relevant to how immigrants gain entry into the domestic economy.

Per the authors, work is expanding at the high and low ends with little or no growth in the “routine’ job middle, where the IT revolution (including enabling massive off-shoring) is destroying domestic jobs. The vast majority of immigrants would fit into the lower end of the polarized market. This raises in my mind concerns about what integration into the American economy means for the large majority of immigrants. I conversed by email with David Autor, one of the authors.

Continue reading "Polarization of American labor market" »

Oakland garment workers and failure to file claims

This is a hot research topic. I recently entered a posting of 2002 study of Asian garment worker injuries in Oakland. I mentioned in the posting that while it offers useful insights into how immigrant workers experience injury risks at work, the study is flawed in its interpretation of the self-reported injury data. The research team was, simply stated, unaware of how injury experiences turn into workers comp claims.

Two researchers at Michigan State University, Jeff Biddle and Karen Roberts, published an article based on a large survey of Michigan workers. I use this study as a benchmark for how American citizens working for established large employer file workers comp claims (or do not). Immigrant worker experience should be contrasted with the MSU findings. Many in this study do not file, even for disabling injury. Some of them could access other benefits. But that’s not the whole complex and engaging picture. If you need to understand underreporting by immigrants compared to the norm, get their analysis in the December 2003 issue of Journal of Risk & Insurance.

RAND issued in 2005 a study of the effect of health insurance coverage on work injury claiming behavior of workers. Both the Rand and the Biddle and Roberts study reflect a more sophisticated understanding of workers comp.

January 30, 2006

Where undocumented immigrants live and work

In January 2004,the Urban Institute published a useful overview of the undocumented population in the United States. Go here for the entire report.

The Institute estimated there were at that time 9.3 million immigrants, of which 6 million were workers. 96% of men work and 62% of women work.

Breakdown of the total population of undocumented immigrants is:

U.S. total (in millions) 9.3; California, 2.4; Texas, 1.1; Florida, 0.9; New York, 0.7; Illinois, 0.4; New Jersey, 0.4; all others, all others, 3.5.

January 29, 2006

Whom day laborers work for, what they do

A snapshot from On the Corner: Day Labor in the United States:

Principal employers of day laborers are (1) contractors in the construction and landscape gardening business and (2) private individuals. Two thirds of day laborers are hired repeatedly by the same employer.

At least three quarters of day laborers have work in most or all of the following occupations: construction labor, mover, gardner/landscaper, and painter. About two thirds have worked as roofers. Other common occupations are house cleaner, carpenter, and drywall installer.

The vast majority –- 83% -- rely on day labor as their sole source of income, and 70% seek work at least five days a week. One third seek work seven days a week.

Go here for a full copy of On The Corner.

January 28, 2006

Jennifer Gordon: Professor, Researcher, Activist, MacArthur Fellow

This is a brief profile of an individual who, as much as anyone in America, has thrown herself into clearing the difficult pathway for immigrants towards full integration into the domestic economy.

She is Associate Professor Law at Fordham University School of Law In New York City. Go here for her academic webpage. A 1992 graduate of Harvard Law School, she devoted much of the 1990s to helping to organize Workplace Project in Hempstead, Long Island.

In her 2005 book, Suburban Sweatshops: The Fight for Immigrant Rights, she describes the struggle of many immigrants to enter the workforce and acquire step by step employee rights which American-born citizens take for granted.

In a 2005 article in the Boston Review (go here), she had this to say about working conditions and the long and exhausting effort to bring them up to minimally acceptable standards:

“Underground economy” suggests a system completely divorced from conventional labor markets. But in fact, the underground and mainstream economies are anything but divided. Immigrant workers and others move in and out of underground work. Furthermore, so-called underground businesses often operate in a relationship with larger and more formal enterprises. A name-brand garment manufacturer may depend on a chain of underground subcontractors to sew its clothing; a national superstore may contract its groundskeeping or roof repair or janitorial work to a local company that operates in the underground economy. And many enterprises are themselves formal in some regards and informal in others, complying with some but not all laws, paying workers in part on the books and in part under the table.
Since its founding thirteen years ago, the Workplace Project in Hempstead, Long Island, has grown from one desk in a room borrowed from a social-service agency into a vibrant membership organization of immigrant workers with the mission of fighting the low wages, high level of injuries, and pervasive abuses of immigrant workers on Long Island. Against the odds, the group has carried out a series of innovative organizing experiments in the underworld of immigrant work, some of which succeeded far beyond the organization’s expectations.
In its early years, the Workplace Project raised wages by over 30 percent on the Long Island street corners where day laborers wait for work—at least most of the time, in most places. They created a domestic-worker bill of rights and a model contract for domestic employers, and they forced placement agencies to promise to adhere to them—a promise that they sometimes kept. Since then, the organization has founded a very small but successful worker-owned landscaping cooperative and a much larger housecleaning co-op owned and operated by immigrant women.

January 24, 2006

Work injury risks in Oakland CA garment industry (2002)

This study is one of several independent studies by largely academic-based researchers on occupational risks of specific groups of workers. This one involves Asian garment workers in Oakland. It looks at injury risks and ergonomic solutions. An absorbing study, it is also exasperatingly flawed. Like the other studies (which I will introduce soon), this study reports that an extremely small portion of worker physical complaints result in workers comp claims. This is a very serious problem. But the authors fail to take into account the severity of the self-reported complaints. They appear not to have considered the very real possibility that many injuries also may have had non-occupational factors. They used no comparison group of workers. It is impossible to figure out if the work injury experience of these workers is materially worse than that of other garment workers. (I suspect it is.) The authors turned away multiple requests to discuss the study with me.

For the complete 26 page report go to We Spend Our Days Working In Pain

I have posted below the Executive Summary and Recommendations......

California sewing factories employ over 100,000 sewing machine operators, most of whom are Asian and Latina immigrants. Health and safety violations are common in the mostly small factories that employ these minimum wage workers. This report is based on the clinical findings and survey results from sewing machine operators seen at the Oakland-based Asian Immigrant Women Workers Clinic (AIWWC), a free clinic for garment workers sponsored by Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA) and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Findings include:

  • Garment workers are being injured on the job and are at substantial risk of permanent disability from their injuries. Ninety-nine percent of AIWWC patients had one or more diagnosed work-related conditions, including back, neck or shoulder sprains or strains. Ninety-four percent experienced pain severe enough to interfere with their daily activities.

  • Working conditions in garment factories are frequently substandard. Approximately 94% of patients reported one or more problems with their workstations including inadequate seating (90%), awkward bending and twisting (67%), breathing problems due to fabric dust (48%), less than adequate rest breaks (40%), and being yelled at by their bosses (36%).

  • Garment workers typically work over 40 hours per week for low pay and no benefits. Patients reported earnings of $6.32 an hour, 25% less than the poverty level for a family of four. Only 22% of patients had health insurance and only 12% reported paid sick leave.

  • The overall health status of garment workers is far worse than that of the general population. A total of 66% of the garment workers in this study reported “poor” or “fair” health. This is three to four times higher than the rate for women in California.

  • Garment workers have inadequate access to occupational health care, specialty treatment services and general preventive health care. Nearly one-third of these women had never been seen by a health care provider for their ongoing musculoskeletal problems. Only a small fraction had been treated by clinicians trained in recognizing and treating occupational health problems.

  • Garment workers are effectively prevented from using the Workers Compensation system. Ninety-seven percent of workers seen in the clinic were eligible to file for workers compensation for their injuries, but refused to do so primarily due to lack of knowledge about the system or because they feared reprisals on the job.

  • Musculoskeletal injuries experienced by garment workers are preventable. Technology is not the problem. In many cases there are simple, cost-effective ergonomic solutions that would prevent the common musculoskeletal problems these workers experience.

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January 22, 2006

Nationwide survey of day labor hiring sites

The 1/22 Sunday New York Times carried an article on a just-released nationwide study of day laborers, Broad Survey of Day Laborers Finds High Level of Injuries and Pay Violations by Steven Greenhouse. (Accesssing the article may require free registration).

The co-authors are two of the most visible academic-based researchers of immigrant labor. Working Immigrants plans to introduce their prior studies on local day labor markets (such as Chicago and Washington DC) in the near future.

Co-author Abel Valenzuela Jr., is on the faculty of University of California at Los Angeles and director of UCLA's Center for the Study of Urban Poverty. Co-author Nik Theodore is the director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The NYT article recaps some of the major findings from this newly-released study, but as of today (1/22), the full study is not yet available on the Net. The following are excerpts from the study:

The first nationwide study on day laborers has found that such workers are a nationwide phenomenon, with 117,600 people gathering at more than 500 hiring sites to look for work on a typical day.
The survey found that three-fourths of day laborers were illegal immigrants and that more than half said employers had cheated them on wages in the previous two months.
The study, based on interviews with 2,660 workers at 264 hiring sites in 20 states and the District of Columbia, found that day laborers earned a median of $10 an hour and $700 month. The study said that only a small number earned more than $15,000 a year.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Forty-nine percent of those interviewed said that in the previous two months an employer had not paid them for one or more days' work. Forty-four percent said some employers did not give them any breaks during the workday, while 28 percent said employers had insulted them.

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