Venezuelan refugees and New York City’s workforce

The asylum system is in crisis (such as noted here), and New York City has become an epicenter of it, particularly with respect to asylum applicants from Venezuela.  Here look through some numbers and come with an estimate of the impact of Venezuelan migration on the New York City workforce.

According to an organization focusing of Venezuelan refugees, as of August 2023 host governments have recorded 7.7 million persons who have left Venezuela.  (Here is my first posting on Venezuelan refugees, in 2019. This is up from five million at the start of 2021. As of late 2022, the number of Venezuelan refugees in the U.S. was estimated that 545,000.

Since then, Venezuelans have streamed into the country, mainly across the Mexican border. In order to control the surge at this border, the Biden administration introduced a special “parole” program which allows Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Cubans and Haitians enter legally.

The New York Times has covered the situation in New York City well. Writing about all migrants, it reports that “As of Sept. 10, more than 113,300 migrants had arrived in New York City since the spring of 2022. Officials have struggled to respond as people from all over the world have arrived, sometimes by the hundreds each week. Many have sought shelter with the city, which has a legal obligation to give beds to anyone who asks.”

“By June [2023], the city had counted more than 80,000 newcomers. Roughly half moved into public shelters, and the city’s shelter system reached 100,000 that month. City officials added up the costs of housing them: an estimated $4.3 billion by next summer. Mayor Eric Adams begged for federal help, disparaged President Biden and warned that the city was being “destroyed.”

There are now hundreds of thousands of recent immigrants in the city, residing under the color of either asylum applicants or parole beneficiaries.   About half are estimated to be from Venezuela.  In 2020, there were probably about 130,000 Venezuelans living in New York City. It is fair to guess that this number has more than doubled in the past two years.

On September 20, the Biden administration authorized 500,000 Venezuelans to obtain work permits. This permission covers the entire U.S.  To comply with law, the administration is granting Venezuelans “Temporary Protected Status” for 18 months; by this step work authorization is available.  According to this report, this new authorization is for 472,000 who have been in the U.S. on or before July 31.  In 2021, a TPS decision authorized 243,000 Venezuelans for 18 months, and this has been renewed.

Effect on the American and New York City workforce

There are about 50 million workers in the U.S. who earn under $35,000 a year. I expect that virtually all of these Venezuelans who work will earn under that amount. Assuming that 65% of the roughly 750,000 protect Venezuelans will work, that adds 1% to this under $35,000 workforce.

There are about five million workers in New York City.  Let’s guess that 1/3, or about 1.5 million, earn under $35,000. Let’s guess that in the past two years, the number of working age Venezuelans in the City has increased by 100,000. This implies that the workforce able to earn no more than $35,000 has grown by 100K / 1500K  = 7%.

Economists have debated for decades the impact of the “Mariel boatlift” on the workforce of Miami. What is happening today in New York City will also provoke a debate about the impact of a surge of immigrant workers.










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