How the administration plans to estimate non-citizen numbers

August 7th, 2020

The Trump administration wants to deduct from census counts unauthorized persons when Congressional seats are apportioned. I have already posted on this. The Migration Policy Institute describes how it believes the administration plans to do it, even though it does not ask in the census a question about citizen status, much less unauthorized status. It plans do it by matching records of disparate federal databases.

Some anti-immigration groups have tried matching, name by name, between voter records and driver registrations, a conceptually simpler task, and end up with unusable messes. (See here for misadventures in TX, FL, SC and NH>)

An Executive Order of July 11, 2019 orders Executive Branch agencies to cooperate with the Census Bureau by using “administrative records” “the number of citizens, non‑citizens, and illegal aliens in the country.” The MPI says this means matching Census records with social security, Medicare, Medicaid, IRS, Homeland Security records perhaps state records. “The problem is that millions of citizens and legal immigrants cannot be matched to administrative records.”

The MPI says that prior efforts to match records “suggests up to 20 million U.S. citizens could be excluded” from the count of citizens.”

A 2018 internal analysis by the Census Bureau on such matching concluded it would not work as desired. The main problem is that surveys, such as the Census, produce “significantly lower estimates of the noncitizen share of the population than would be produced from currently available administrative records.” The authors cite “noncitizen respondents misreporting their own citizenship status and failing to report that of other household members. At the same time, currently available administrative records may miss some naturalizations and capture others with a delay.” The MPI adds that some “may use a different version of their name on the Census form than used in government records.”

The Census undercount will be worse “in densely populated urban areas where more people crowd in each housing unit, and in rural agricultural areas where migrant farmworkers live for part of the year. It is also difficult to collect data from younger people, especially those who move back and forth from home during their college years.”

Jobs occupied by low wage immigrants to decline

August 3rd, 2020


The Brookings Institution predicts that the pandemic will permanently drive down job numbers for some occupations not requiring more than a HS degree. Some today have high shares of immigrant workers with little formal education. The net effect will be a decline in the attractiveness of the American job market to non-English speaking immigrants with little formal education. The impact of migration trends will be gradual.

Elimination of jobs due to telework: “If telepresence displaces a meaningful fraction of professional office time and business travel, the accompanying reductions in office occupancy, daily commuting trips, and business excursions will mean steep declines in demand for building cleaning, security, and maintenance service; hotel workers and restaurant staff; taxi and ride-hailing drivers; and myriad other workers who feed, transport, clothe, entertain, and shelter people when they are not in their own homes. These services account for one in four U.S. jobs. While immigrants make up about 17% of all workers, they make up to 25% or more of the workers in these categories.

Elimination of jobs due to “automation forcing.” “A consequence of the crisis is what one might generically call automation forcing. Spurred by social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders that generated a severe temporary labor shortage, firms have discovered new ways to harness emerging technologies to accomplish their core tasks with less human labor—fewer workers per store, fewer security guards and more cameras, more automation in warehouses, and more machinery applied to nightly scrubbing of workplaces…. In the meatpacking industry,
where the novel coronavirus has sickened thousands of workers, the COVID crisis will speed the adoption of robotic automation.” Immigrant workers with little formal education probably account for a quarter of these jobs.

Jobs still in demand for workers with little formal education will be client-focused, low productivity jobs such as health aides and personal aides, which required proficiency in English. This favors workers from the Caribbean, Africa, and Philippines, not Latin America.

By David Autor and Elizabeth Reynolds, Brookings Institution

American immigration policy and global talent

August 1st, 2020

In 2016 I posted on global talent flows. Where does American immigration policy now stand on these flows?

If Trump is not re-elected, we may see a return of immigration policy that is friendly to talent, but will face challenges: (1) the pandemic’s disruption of travel, which may translate into changes in employment location, (2) a great imbalance of talented immigration into a relatively few metros, (3) the chronic resistance of both parties to workforce planning, which makes it very difficult to forge intelligent immigration reform.

The American economy participants in the global talent flow in three channels: as a desired location of getting advanced degrees; for temporary employment; and for permanent immigration. One channel cannot be cut off without adversely affecting the others.

Advanced degrees: According to a 2013 article, “Over the last half century, the United States has been the most important training ground for the global supply of science and engineering talent. Where S&E PhDs choose to locate after they have completed their education is likely to affect the global distribution of innovative capacity. “77% of foreign-born S&E PhDs state that they plan to stay in the United States.”

The higher education industry is the U.S. has become financial dependent on these students. “As of 2017, 81% of full-time graduate students in electrical and petroleum engineering programs at U.S. universities are international students, and 79% in computer science are. National Foundation for American Policy report in 2017 said that “both majors and graduate programs could not be maintained without international students.”

This flow of students to the U.S. is being diverted to Canada and other English speaking countries, but not to China.

Non-academic immigrants, temporary and permanent: Foreign workers make up about half of some STEM workforces in the U.S. This is part of a dramatic global migration of highly educated workers. The number of migrants with a tertiary degree rose nearly 130 percent from 1990 to 2010, while low skilled (primary educated) migrants increased by only 40 percent during that time. Then flow has headed to English speaking countries.

For the U.S. and other recipient countries, high-skilled immigration is linked to clusters of technology and knowledge production. The H-1B visa program is the nation’s largest temporary employment visa program. The visa holders are concentrated in metro areas of New York City, Dallas, Washington, Boston, and San Jose. These markets have depended on temporary and permanent foreign stem workers for their growth of knowledge industries.  Most areas of the country do not experience the flourishing of the knowledge economy and its foreign workers (as does the Boulder CO area to which I recently moved from Vermont).

The student flow and non-academic flows are intertwined. In San Diego, 28% of H-1B temporary visas went to foreign workers with advanced degrees from a U.S. university or college

Source of some data: Sari Pekkala Kerr, William Kerr, Çaǧlar Özden and Christopher Parsons. Global Talent Flows, Working Paper 22715. NBER, October 2016

Bangladeshi workers in the Gulf and the pandemic

July 28th, 2020

Eight of Bangladeshi’s 160 million people live outside the country. About half, or 4.2 million, live in the Gulf region*, the second largest group in the region behind migrants from India. Most of them are unskilled and from the most poverty-ridden regions of Bangladesh. Almost all of them are contract migrants, meaning they return after a fixed tenure typically lasting between three and ten years.

These migrants have contributed to building up the vast highways, eye-catching skyscrapers, thriving industries, and world-class cities. Their cost of migration is often exorbitant, with significant shares of the recruitment fees handed off to middlemen, with the remainder covering agency fees at both ends, official costs, and plane tickets. Most become indebted to raise the funds, pawning their land, selling property, taking high-interest loans, or borrowing from relatives.

These migrants are largely left out of pandemic response programs of these countries, despite relatively high infection rates. In Saudi Arabia migrants account for 38% of the population but 76% case confirmed as of May.

Bangladesh received U.S. $18.3 billion via remittances sent via formal channels in 2019, 73% of which came from the Gulf region. Remittances were equal to 6% of the country’s $302.6 billion GDP. The World Bank predicted that South Asian countries might face a 22% decline in remittances during 2020.

*The Gulf region in this posting includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

From the Migration Policy Institute

USCIS crises

July 25th, 2020

The American Immigration Council writes about funding and management crises at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. These crises have multiple dimensions, including the following taken from its July 15 blog posting:

USICS plans to furlough over 13,000 employees as of August 3 at a time when its own data confirms that the agency has a backlog of over 5.7 million pending cases. While the agency has asked Congress for emergency funding, the White House has yet to submit a formal request. It is unclear if Congress will be able to step in before the long August recess.

If USCIS moves forward with these furloughs, productivity will plummet even further. Millions of cases will be left in limbo until the agency is able to fully resume operations. This includes the applications from hundreds of thousands of Dreamers impacted by the Supreme Court’s recent DACA decision.

The USCIS is also holding up green card and work permit issuance.

Marriage based green cards

July 22nd, 2020

Asel Mukambetova of SelfLawyer responds to my request to summarize how marriage-based green cards are handled:

The time between an individual’s submission of an application for a green card and the date of award varies greatly by circumstances. Assume you have married a person without a green card. It will take about 12 to 13 months to obtain a green card for your spouse. After receiving a green card, your spouse will generally not be eligible for citizenship until 3 years have passed (if you are a U.S. citizen).

If you are a U.S. citizen sponsoring your unmarried son or daughter over 21, the waiting time is 58.5 Months to 76 Months. For a son or daughter under the age of 21 (including stepchildren), the waiting time is 12 months to 13 months. (The duration estimates cited above were typical as of month/year.)

The cost of obtaining a green card for a family member includes fees and attorney costs assuming you use an attorney. The minimum cost of government fees to sponsor a relative is $1,400-$1,900 per immigrant. Immigration attorney fees can range from $935 to $4,000 per immigrant.

If undocumented are not counted for House seats

July 21st, 2020

President Trump signed a memo today with the intent to remove undocumented persons from the population count in the 2020 census when the 435 congressional seats are apportioned. Since neither authorized nor unauthorized persons are identified in the census, the probability of this policy happening are slim simply on data collection grounds. But let’s do some numbers. It appears that 4 seats might be switched among states.

There are 320 million people in the U.S. There are about 11 million undocumented persons, or 3.4% of the total population. The only states where the undocumented population is so proportionally large that they would lose seats are California (lose 2 seats of 53), Texas (lose 1 seat of 36) and Illinois (lose 1 of 18). Florida would come close to losing 1 of 27 seats. (Data on unauthorized populations from here.)

What states might benefit? 16 states are marginally more likely to gain or lose seats before this new factor is taken into account. Brookings demographer William Frey estimated that Texas could gain three seats. Florida could gain two seats; thus the provision would lower the prospects of these two states. North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and Oregon could each gain one seat. Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia could each lose a seat. (from CNN here.)


Coming decline of international students this coming academic year

July 19th, 2020

About 2.5 million students began college in 2018-2019. In that year, over 10% of them were international students — about 270,000 new students. The enrollment of new international students in the Fall 2020-21 academic year is projected to decline 63% to 98% from the 2018-19 level. (From here.) This is even with the recission of the rule to bar international students.

Several factors are behind this, including difficulties in obtaining visas, and the greater risk of acquiring the virus in the U.S. compared to other countries.

The pandemic + the Trump administration’s instinctive antipathy towards immigration (as the fiasco of barring international students, which lasted for less than a week) are happening at a time when other advanced countries are wooing international students. Canada, for instance, is making it easier for international students to gain work permits (here).

Two thirds of post BA international students in computer sciences used to come from India. Even before the pandemic, there was a decline in this inflow (here).

Jaw dropping forecast of world population trends

July 16th, 2020

The global total fertility rate will be 1.66 in 2100, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. Pretty much every advanced country’s fertility rate in 2017 was below replacement.  By 2050, 151 countries are forecasted to have a fertility rate below 2.1, and 183 by 2100. 23 countries including Japan, Thailand, and Spain, will have population declines greater than 50% from 2017 to 2100; China’s population is forecasted to decline by 48% in 2100 due to the extraordinarily low ratio of young to old because of the one child policy of the past. China’s 2017 fertility rate was 1.53.  

The authors of this forecast say that “continued trends in female educational attainment and access to contraception will hasten declines in fertility and slow population growth.” And, “Our findings show that some countries with fertility lower than replacement level, such as the USA (now: 1.81), Australia, and Canada, will probably maintain their working-age populations through net immigration. Our forecasts for a shrinking global population have positive implications for the environment, climate change, and food production, but possible negative implications for labour forces, economic growth, and social support systems in parts of the world with the greatest fertility declines.”

The world’s population today is 7.6 billion. The world’s population will peak in 2068. In 2100 it will be 8.8 billion, but if female education and contraception goals that have been articulated are met, the 2100 popularion will be less then 7 billion.

From The Lancet, and as reported here.

Biden position on immigration

July 15th, 2020

The Biden campaign task force issued a 1,800 word statement on immigration policy. It embraces an inclusive vision of immigration. The Trump policies will be reversed and immigration will be increased.

The war over immigration is primarily a cultural war, not a war over jobs. This is hard to find stated explicitly by either side.

The Biden statement implies that that immigration should be assessed on its impact of American culture and that this impact is overwhelmingly positive. In contrast, a hard restrictionist position on immigration, in my view, focuses on competition for jobs but has an underlying and unstated position that American culture suffers from immigration

The Biden prioritizes non-economic-based immigration (“Our family, humanitarian, and diversity pathways have contributed immeasurably to the vibrancy and productivity of American society and should continue to be the centerpiece of our immigration system.”)

It contains nothing surprising except perhaps for going further than some might expect to limit immigration law enforcement — making it government policy to shield “sensitive locations like our schools, houses of worship, health care facilities, benefits offices, and DMVs from immigration enforcement actions.”