Archive for August, 2020

How the administration plans to estimate non-citizen numbers

Friday, 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

Monday, 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

Saturday, 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