The underclass scenario in immigration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Reihan Salam, Melting Pot of Civil War.

For education figures go here.



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