Remittances from foreign-born in U.S.: up 455% from 1990

Remittances from foreign-born residents in the U.S. to other countries in 1990 were $11.9 billion, $30.9 billion in 2000, in 2009 $48 billion, and in 2014, $54.2 billion. (For figures before 2014, go here, for 2014, go here). In 2014, $25 billion was sent to Mexico; $15 billion to China, over $10 billion sent to India, and $10 billion to the Philippines.

In 2113, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana introduced the Remittance Status Verification Act,” which would impose a fee on remittances made by remittance customers who wire money abroad but are unable to prove their legal status. The GAO analyzed the practical aspects of the bill here.

The best source of remittance data worldwide is the World Bank. Its 2016 report is here. The Bank reports the distribution of remittance income. Low-income countries receive 6% of all remittance dollars. Middle income countries claim about 70% of all remittance dollars. They include Mexico, China and India. The largest recipients in 2015 in descending order were all middle income countries. India, China, the Philippines and Mexico account for $192 billion or 44% of all $440 billion in remittances received (see the World Bank 2016 report). Higher income countries get 23% of remittances.

the Bank says that “At more than three times the size of development aid, international migrants’ remittances provide a lifeline for millions of households in developing countries. In addition, migrants hold more than $500 billion in annual savings. Together, remittances and migrant savings offer a substantial source of financing for development projects that can improve lives and livelihoods in developing countries.”

The needed housing construction boom and immigrant workers

The blogger CSEN says that energizing construction of housing is essential for prosperity:

“The economic shortfall in the US right now is mostly on the housing side. Because of how important housing is to the US economy, this is why 4.7% headline unemployment doesn’t feel like full employment. Construction employment as a share of total employment is likely going to rise at least another 0.4% to get to a level of 5% in this cycle. At the current level of employment, this means we need another 550,000-600,000 construction workers. Construction unemployment is already near record lows.”

The construction workforce is 25% foreign-born and 15% undocumented workers. Building more houses at a large scale, especially in the high growth states of Florida, Texas and California, cannot be feasibly be done without a generous supply of these workers.

Here is a profile of construction workers in 2013:

22 occupations accounted for 8 million jobs. 25% of these jobs were held by immigrants and 15% were held by undocumented immigrants. The jobs in which immigrants have at least a one third share – eight – account for 44% of the construction workforce, leading with construction laborers, who make up a quarter of the construction workforce. Generally these 22 occupations do not require a high school degree and laborers definitely do not. Among Hispanic (foreign and native born) construction workers in 2007, half did not have a high school degree compared to 11% of all other construction workers.

Different correlation analyses of construction work might show that immigrant workers (1) drive down wages in some construction jobs, yet also (2) enable the construction industry to grow by providing needed workers in jobs that may be hard to fill with native workers, either because of low skill demand (laborers) or danger (roofing).

For a review of construction employment in 2007 with a focus on Hispanic workers, go here at the Center for Protection of Worker Rights.

Demographic winter in the Midwest: too few immigrants

The decline in the numbers of native working age people is especially acute in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. “U.S. Economic Competitiveness at Risk” says a Midwest coalition, organized by the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs.  The Chicago Council reported (“Growing Heartland”) in June 2014 that between 2000 and 2010, the Midwest lost 1.4 million native born people between ages 35 to 44, a 20% loss for the age group, while gaining 265,000 foreign born persons in that age group, a 44% increase.

Thus, while nationwide the primary driver of population increase in the U.S. will turn to net international migration in 2032, per the Census Bureau, the impact is acute today in these regions as far as the workforce is concerned.

These Midwest reports are saying, in effect, that there is not enough net in-migration of immigrant workers.

Recent impact of immigrant in-migration on labor force was estimated by the Conference Board. Major states with very large positive immigrant in-migration 2004-2013 are New York (- 3.6% decline in total working age population), New Jersey (0.1%), Florida (17%), California (8%) and Texas (20%).

But the opposite is the case for Midwest states where the labor force decline was weakly countered by immigrant in-migration since 2004: Michigan (total decline of -1%), Pennsylvania (-6%), Ohio (-6%), Illinois (-3%).

Asian American voters this November

The data on Asian American public opinion reveal that Asian Americans are shifting in party identification towards the Democratic Party, and exclusionary rhetoric is a likely cause. There has been a 12-point increase in the proportion of Asian Americans who identify as Democrats from 2012 to 2016.

Asian American voters nearly doubled from more than 2 million voters in 2000 to 2000 to 3.9 million voters in 2012. Since in the last three presidential cycles, the number of Asian American voters has grown by an average of 620,000 votes, the 2016 turnout might be 4.4 million voters. Asian Americans will reach 5% of voters nationally by 2025. In battleground states in 2012, they were 6.5% of the voters in Nevada, 3.9% in Virginia, and 1.8% in Florida.

Trump’s unfavorability rate is 48% for 65 yo and older, 63% for 35-64, and 86% for 18-34 yo. 31% have a very or somewhat favorable view of the Republican Party, vs. 65% for the Democratic Party and 68% for Barak Obama.

This information is from a May, 2016 report, Inclusion, Not Exclusion. Apiavote stands for Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote.

2012 exit polls showed at least 70% of Asian-American voters chose Obama. Two decades ago, Asian-Americans reported voting Republican by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. See my post election posting here.


Footloose college graduates around the world

PriceWaterhouseCoopers interviewed 4,364 college graduates online. A third were PwC employees; that selection bias needs to be taken into account. All were 31 years old or younger (i.e. born 1985 or later). About 20% lived in the U.S., UK or Australia.

71% expect and want to do an overseas assignment during their career. Wanting to work (at least for a while) outside their country – for North Americans, 69%, with all other regions equal or higher.

Where they want to work most: U.S. 58%, UK 49%, Australia 39%, Canada 33%, Germany 32% and most other developed counties below 25%.

Opportunity for future growth is overwhelmingly the most important factor in job selection (65%) contrasted with salary (21%). The most important job benefit is training and development (22%).

“My personal drive can be intimidating to other generations within the workplace” – In India, 57% answered yes; in UK. 21%.

Ease with technology: 41% of those questioned said they would rather communicate electronically than face-to-face or over the telephone. 59% said that an employer’s provision of state-of-the art technology was important to them when considering a job. 78% said that access to the technology they like to use makes them more effective at work.

President Johnson and the 1965 immigration reforms

Daniel Teichnor writes in the Atlantic about the 1965 legislation which opened up American immigration. Below are some excerpts from his article:

Immigration is one of the most dangerous issues in American politics… Nearly every new American president of the modern era has viewed the nation’s immigration policies as deeply flawed…. yet, President Lyndon Johnson’s battle for reform underscores the way immigration policy can be a potent political tool and offers a model for future presidents.

He ultimately expended far more political energy on this issue than anyone on his team anticipated. Johnson recognized that failing to spearhead an immigration overhaul would significantly undercut his civil-rights, social-justice, and geopolitical goals.

When John Kennedy took office in 1961, the dominant immigration law was the highly restrictive Immigration Act of 1924, heavily biased towards countries of origin represented in the 1890 national census. It completely excluded immigrants from Asia.

Democrats were deeply divided between southern conservatives opposed to any loosening of restrictions and northern liberals committed to dismantling racist national-origins quotas that reserved about 70% of visas for immigrants from just three countries: Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany. While Kennedy described immigration reform as “the most urgent and fundamental” item on his New Frontier agenda, he got nowhere on plans to alter U.S. immigration law due to potent opposition from conservative Democrats, who controlled the immigration subcommittees of both houses…. Immigration restrictions were defended in the name of national security, job protection, and ethnic and racial hierarchy

In January, 1964, President Johnson induced Senator James Eastland, an immigration reform opponent, to hand his chairmanship of the key Senate committee over to Ted Kennedy. Michael Feighan, a fierce reform opponent and chair of the key House committee, fought the administration but eventually decided to negotiate. Curiously, Feighan forced the Johnson to weaken a skills-based plan because he thought by doing so Northern Europeans would dominate immigration through family reunification provisions.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, or the Hart-Celler Act, was enacted by Congress on October 3, 1965. It abolished the national origins quota system, and introduced a system based partly on family, partly on skills. Between 1951 and 1960, new immigrants averaged about 220,000 a year. By 1981 to 1990, they averaged about 700,000 a year.

A Somali refugee’s encounter with meatpacking work

Meat processing plants went rural in the last decades of the 20th Century, luring immigrant workers to places like Liberal, Kansas. Chico Harlan of the Washington Post narrates the struggle of a Somali refugee, 23 year-old Mohamed Ahmed, to make a living in this very tough work. Ahmed drives hundreds of miles through the Midwest and mountain states in search of an extra couple of bucks and hour pay and a job that doesn’t wear him down.

Harlan traces Ahmed’s story in the context of Somali refugees and in the context of meat packing. The Migration Policy Institute reports that of the 70,000 refugees admitted annually, about 8,000 of them have recently been from Somali. Most apply for refugee status from the massive Dabaab network of camps in Kenya, which Kenya is trying to close down.

Meatpacking (or meat processing) evolved to become a major hirer of immigrants with little formal education. I’ve described this evolution here:

Consolation of the meat packing business into large processing plants, causing family and small employer operations to sharply decline.

Placement of the plants in rural areas. As of 2005, only one small meatpacking plant in Chicago was left.

Deskilling: “A formerly urban, unionized, and semiskilled workforce employed in production plants, supermarkets, and butcher shops in the 1950s was transformed into one with rural, mostly nonunion, and unskilled workers concentrated at the industrial processing end of the meat production chain by the end of the 1980s.” Workers with limited English proficiency can find jobs.


H-1B and the IT job market in California

“There isn’t a clearer cut case of adverse impacts – the American worker is losing his job to an H-1B.” The person quoted was referring to the decision by Southern California Edison (SCE) in 2015 to lay off hundreds of domestic IT workers, and then turn to temporary work visa firms to replace the workers with Indians.

The dispute over outsourcing of IT jobs to outsourcing firms is complicated by the lack of public information on the detailed economics of major players such as SCE, plus the inherent complexity of IT workforce management.

We need an in-depth analysis by some one willing to suspend judgment. See George Borjas’ blog posting here, in which he reviews some recent research. For him, the only real benefit to American workers would come when temporary STEM workers bring skills and knowledge which spills over onto domestic co-workers. In the SCE case, it’s highly unlikely this would happen, because per Borjas these H-1B workers aren’t that special.

SCE had about 1,800 employees, plus an additional 1,500 contract workers. The 2015 layoffs involved about 400 workers. SCE hired Infosys, from Bangalore, and Tata Consultancy Services, headquartered in Mumbai, for replacements. Terminated employees signed confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements.

The Economic Policy Institute reports that the ten top IT outsourcing firms doing business in California filled applications in 2015 for 69,000 temporary H-1B jobs.

Over two-thirds of H-1B visas are granted for systems analysis and programming jobs.

On February 25 of this year Ron Hira of the Economic Policy Institute testified to Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest of the Judiciary Committee.

Hira has estimated that SCE and other H-1B workers are paid less than prevailing wages. He did not have access to actual wages of lay off workers. He did know what H-1B worker wages for SCE, – in the $65K – $70K range, which he compared to the Dept of Labor estimates of the average wage of “computer systems analyst” of $91,990. And he had an Aon-Hewitt compensation study showing that IT employees of SCE were paid above $100K.

Wage data for IT certainly suggests that SCE and other outsourcing companies are saving a bundle on wages. BLS data show there were 74,000 computer systems analysts in California in 2014 with an average salary of $99,000. There were 548,000 computer and mathematical jobs in total in the state, with an average salary of $102,000.

The Dept of Labor has determined that SCE did not violate the H-1B law.

How America ranks worldwide in migration

Pew Research Center, drawing on data of immigrant populations compiled by the U.N., highlights several ways to rank America in immigration flows.

See the U.N. 2015 report here; it says that “the number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow rapidly over the past fifteen years reaching 244 million in 2015, up from 222 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000.”

The most immigrants. Survey data indicates there are about 41 million foreign-born people in the country (the UN estimates 46.6 million). The next largest foreign-born population is Germany, with 12 million. Note that India and China, countries with three or four times our population, has fewer foreign born.

The largest migration corridor. The U.S.-Mexico migration corridor is the world’s largest. About 12 million residents in the U.S. were born in Mexico. The second largest corridor consists of Indian nationals living in the United Arab Emirates, estimated to be 3.5 million migrants, 40% of whom come from one Indian state, Kerala.

Lower than Canada, Australia others in foreign-born penetration.  Other countries have a much greater share of residents who are foreign-born. We are at about 14%, compared to Canada (22%), Australia (28%) and Gulf countries, where over three quarters of the population are foreign born.

Relatively low share of American citizens live outside the country. More than 3 million people who were born in the U.S. now live in other countries, compared with nearly 16 million Indians who are emigrants. About 12 million Mexican-born people live outside of Mexico, Syria (5 million) and Poland (4.4 million) have larger emigrant populations. About 1% of Americans live outside the U.S, compared to UK (8%), Germany (5% and Canada (4%).

Donald Trump on illegals and the Wall

The New York Times analyzes today the presidential candidate’s proposals about undocumented residents and the border with Mexico.

Deport them

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014 there were 11.3 unauthorized persons in the country; 49% of them are Mexicans, whose numbers dropped from 6.9 million in 2007 to 5.6 million in 2014; they make up 5.1% of the workforce; and 7% of K-12 students had at least one unauthorized parent. What work these workers do is estimated here.

Trump says that his deportation measures will resemble Operation Wetback, the most recent mass-scale deportation program in the country, begun in 1954, and will be completed in two years. Currently the country deports about 400,000 persons a year.

“ ‘I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years where we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant,’ said Michael Chertoff, who led a significant increase in immigration enforcement as the secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.”

To prevent flight after arrest, the authorities would have to detain most immigrants awaiting deportation. Existing facilities, with about 34,000 beds, would have to be expanded to hold at least 300,000.

“ ‘Unless you suspend the Constitution and instruct the police to behave as if we live in North Korea,’ ” Mr. Chertoff said, “’it ain’t happening.’”

Build a Wall

“Mr. Trump has shared few details. He has said that the wall would be built from precast concrete and steel and that it could be 50 feet tall, if not higher. After calling for it to extend across the entire 2,000-mile southern border, he more recently said half that length could be sufficient because of natural barriers. He has pegged the cost at $4 billion to $12 billion, most recently settling on around $10 billion.” The Times article goes into the cost, logistics and eminent domain aspects of the proposal.

It also discusses water rights and recent history of Mexican-American relations. “The Colorado River sends water south; the Rio Grande, a natural boundary for hundreds of miles, delivers precious water from Mexico, through dozens of canals, to much of South Texas. Water experts in the Southwest question how Mr. Trump’s border wall could accommodate those crucial flows and still provide the barrier he wants.”