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January 08, 2004

Immigration: Impacts on Southern California

Michael:

Given your recent posting on President Bush’s proposal for immigration reform, and the flurry of pro- and anti-immigration comments it aroused, I thought it might be useful to examine some of the impacts of large-scale immigration on Southern California. Not only is that where I live, but, because of its proximity to Mexico and Central America, Southern California may serve as an advanced example for people living in other parts of the country.

IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DEMOGRAPHICS

Along with economic information, the long-form data [from the 2000 Census] showed other population trends [from the 1990 Census]: The number of Latinos in L.A. County grew by 26.6% to 4.2 million. County residents of Mexican heritage climbed 20% to more than 3 million…The county's white population fell 18.3%, and its black population fell 3.6%…The number of adults with less than a ninth-grade education rose faster than the population growth, by 11.9%, to 955,000….Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties experienced increases of 36% to 70% in the number of foreign-born residents, while Los Angeles County's figure increased by 19%, to 3.5 million, or 36% of the population. More than half of L.A. County's residents--54%--said in 2000 that they spoke a language other than English at home, up from 45% in 1990.

-L. A. Times, “THE 2000 CENSUS; Southland's Average Family Income Dropped in the '90s” May 15, 2002

Although [California’s] population continues to grow because of immigration, more people left California in the last half of the 1990s than moved in from other states, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released today. More than 1.4 million people in the U.S. migrated to California from 1995 to 2000, while 2.2 million left -- the highest migration numbers in the country. That exodus is "unprecedented," said Hans P. Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California, an independent San Francisco research organization.

- L. A. Times, “California is Seen in Rearview Mirror” August 6, 2003

IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON HOUSEHOLD INCOME IN LOS ANGELES

The percentage of Americans living below poverty level decreased slightly from 13.1% in 1989 to 12.4% in 1999. (In the Los Angeles area, individuals below the poverty level increased, from 13.1% to 15.6%. …). Americans' median household income went up from an inflation- adjusted $39,008 to $41,994 during the decade [from 1989 to 1999]. In the L.A. area, it fell from $47,646 to $45,903.

-L. A. Times, “Data Reflect Southland's Highs, Lows,” June 5, 2002

IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NEIGHBORHOODS

The number of poor neighborhoods in the Los Angeles region has more than tripled over the last 30 years, with poor and very poor neighborhoods becoming more geographically concentrated in suburban areas, according to a UCLA-Brookings Institution study released Monday. The study, titled "The Trajectory of Poor Neighborhoods in Southern California, 1970-2000," reports that immigration and the region's economy are responsible for a steady increase in the area's poverty rate and a shift in the location of poor neighborhoods….In 1970, not quite a third of the region's population lived in areas with a poverty rate of at least 20%. In the year 2000, 57% did, according to the study…The report says that international migration has played a major role…A large supply of less-skilled workers has depressed wages and created more competition in the labor market, contributing to slow wage growth and limited economic mobility, the report said. [emphases added]

- L.A. Times, “County's Poor Areas Tripled, Study Finds,” Dec 2, 2003

Racial and ethnic features of area poverty have also changed, the report said. The Latino proportion of the population living in very poor neighborhoods increased more than threefold between 1970 and 2000….

- L.A. Times, “County's Poor Areas Tripled, Study Finds,” Dec 2, 2003

DO IMMIGRANTS REALLY TAKE JOBS U.S. WORKERS WON'T? IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON THE NON-IMMIGRANT POPULATION

Hispanic immigrants piling into the labor market are weighing down the wages of all workers in a broad range of blue-collar occupations in big cities across the country, according to a new study. The study, by Lisa Catanzarite, a sociologist at the University of California, Los Angeles…found that the occupations in which new Hispanic immigrants account for a quarter of the work force pay as much as 11% less than those where there are no new Latino immigrant men. …Previous studies have found these newcomers make much less money than native workers. But these studies also have generally concluded [that] the presence of immigrants have had little impact on the wage levels of the native born. …The new research…finds a big impact on nonimmigrant workers. When many new Latino immigrants work in a given occupation, the job will pay less than others that require similar skills but employ fewer recent arrivals….What’s more, Ms. Catanzarite says the natives who suffer most from the wage penalty also are minorities… “It is earlier-immigrant Latinos who take the hardest hit,” [Ms. Catanzarite] said. “They are far more likely to be employed in brown-collar fields than are natives.” - Wall Street Journal, “Hispanic Newcomers Skew Wages” August 19, 2003
In April, I shopped for a contractor to paint my house trim. I got three bids. One was for $1,600, about $400 less than the others. The only condition was that payment be in cash. That wasn't remarkable. Is there a Californian alive who doesn't know they can pay under the table for cheap immigrant labor? You pay cash. There are no checks. There is no tax record. But this bargain didn't come from an undocumented worker. It came from an established businessman with good references. I asked why the ethical gyrations. He vented: "If I'm going to stay in business, I have to do what the illegals do. They never pay taxes, on profits or on their employees' pay. Right there, I'm at a 20% disadvantage. They'll come in here with about six guys with paintbrushes who work for peanuts, do a fair job, and then they're gone." These competitors have driven every American out of gardening, he added, and are doing it to house- painting, roofing and car repair. He concluded in frustration, "What am I supposed to do?"

-L. A. Times, “Undermining American workers; Record Numbers of Illegal Immigrants Are Pulling Wages Down for the Poor and Pushing Taxes Higher” July 20, 2003

Terry Anderson, a black talk-radio host in Los Angeles, says he sees similar displacement throughout the African American community. "I defy you to find a black janitor in L.A.," Anderson says. "In the '70s, the auto body-repair business in South-Central was pretty much occupied by blacks. Those jobs are all gone now. They're all held by Hispanics, and all of them are illegals. And those $25 jobs that blacks used to hold in the '70s now pay $8 to $10, and a black man can't get hired even if he's expert."

-L. A. Times, “Undermining American workers; Record Numbers of Illegal Immigrants Are Pulling Wages Down for the Poor and Pushing Taxes Higher” July 20, 2003

IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON PUBLIC SECTOR REVENUE & AND ON DEMANDS FOR PUBLIC SECTOR SERVICES

A study last year by the Economic Roundtable, a Los Angeles research group, found that the underground sector in Southern California probably accounts for 20% or more of the economy, says economist Dan Flaming, author of the report. Nationwide, the International Monetary Fund reported in a 2002 issues paper, underground work amounted to 10% of the total economy…. The state Employment Development Department's estimates are somewhat lower, at $3 billion to $6 billion annually in lost income and wage-related taxes. Any way it's counted, that's a pile of money for a state running a $38-billion deficit that Sacramento is attempting to close by cutting services, raising taxes and borrowing money.

-L. A. Times, “Undermining American workers; Record Numbers of Illegal Immigrants Are Pulling Wages Down for the Poor and Pushing Taxes Higher” July 20, 2003

In California, the new study found: Almost 7 in 10 (69%) of Mexican immigrants and their children live in or near poverty. That is more than double the rate for U.S. natives and their children; about 1 in 4 (25.7%) of the native families are that poor. More than one-third (36.3%) of households headed by Mexican immigrants receive aid from one of the major welfare programs. The figure for U.S. native households is 13.9% Mexican immigrants and their children account for 41.4% of people without health insurance. U.S. natives and their children make up 13.5% of the uninsured.

-L. A. Times, “Dim View of Mexico Migration; Study: Group backing tight limits says influx brings huge costs but few benefits” July 13, 2001

IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON EDUCATION LEVELS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Southern California has the highest percentage of poor families and poorly educated residents among the nation's large metropolitan areas, according to data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau. The Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County area has the highest percentage of residents with less than a ninth-grade education, the lowest percentage of those who have completed high school and the highest percentage of families in poverty. …Los Angeles' rankings further confirmed the impact of immigration, said USC demographer Dowell Myers, an expert in census analysis. "Los Angeles is skewed because we draw so heavily from Mexico and Central America," and immigrants from those countries often have low levels of schooling, he said…. Myers said different immigration patterns account for San Francisco and New York having large foreign-born populations but lower poverty and higher education levels than Los Angeles. San Francisco has a higher proportion of Asian immigrants, and New York receives many African, West Indian and European immigrants who tend to have higher education levels than those from Mexico and Central America, he said.

-L. A. Times, “Data Reflect Southland's Highs, Lows,” June 5, 2002

IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY

The number of California children living in poverty increased by more than 430,000 over the decade ending in 2000, according to a survey released Thursday on the well-being of the nation's children. Nearly 1.8 million of the state's children, or about 20%, live below the poverty level, compared with the 1990 total of about 1.4 million, or 18%, the study said…California had more children living in poverty, living with low- income working families, living with a parent without a high school diploma or living with no full-time employed parent than the national average, the study found. While California slightly improved its percentage of children living with a parent without a high school diploma, it had the highest rate among the states.

-L. A. Times, “California Children Living in Poverty Rose by 430,000 in '90s, Survey Shows” March 8, 2002

IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON POLITICS

On the level of electoral survival, politicians increasingly are courting immigrant voters and seeking to demonstrate sensitivity to their concerns. President Bush provided an example of this when the White House publicly advocated the restoration of food stamp benefits for immigrants in this year's budget. "If Democrats don't watch out, Bush is going to eat their lunch," said Charles Cook, a Washington political analyst, speculating that Democrats would feel growing pressure to demonstrate their own appeal to immigrant voters. "You could conceivably see something of a bidding war, with each side trying to reach out more and more," Cook said. At the same time, Cook added that Republicans have their own serious problems with groups such as Mexican Americans. "The Republican Party cannot afford to get hammered by Hispanic voters the way it has in the past," he said. "I think most Republicans are grudgingly coming around to that view--that it's political suicide to be seen as anti-Hispanic--and they're making efforts to reverse course."

-L. A. Times, “Immigrants Make Election-Year Gains With Lawmakers,” June 27, 2002

Incidently, I would say that I'm fairly agnostic about the whole topic of immigration. I know, respect and employ immigrants, and, of course, I'm a grandchild of immigrants. So I have a hard time dismissing immigration's many positive factors.

However, there is also no doubt that massive immigration has had a significant negative impact on the quality of life in Southern California. I've lived here since 1981, and frankly it's not as nice a place as it was when I got here. I do sometimes think people who are strongly pro-immigration should pause and acknowledge that the process is not without its costs. And I would point out that the quotes I have taken are from two strongly pro-immigration newspapers, the L.A. Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Cheers,

Friedrich

posted by Friedrich at January 8, 2004




Comments

Fascinating stuff, many thanks for all the work. Pretty dramatic stuff.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 6:59 PM



Maybe interesting to read, but none of it really demonstrates that immigration has been a bad thing.

Wages may have declined for some, but this has to be offset by reduced costs for others. An increased supply of labor expand an economy, even if there are some unfortunate distributional effects.

The rest of the stats just demonstrate the immigrants are less educated and less wealthy than natives. So? We suspected that.

As for the gratuitious "However, there is also no doubt that massive immigration has had a significant negative impact on the quality of life in Southern California. I've lived here since 1981, and frankly it's not as nice a place as it was when I got here."

Move then. The character of places change. Cities get crowded. Patterns of crime shift. That does not suggest there is a problem with immigration... it suggests there's a problem with you. It's just a modern-day "There goes the neighborhood" argument with fingers pointed at a different ethnicity.

By the way, it's tough to take someone who cites to newspapers (and a sociologist) seriously.

Posted by: Good Boy on January 8, 2004 8:32 PM



One more thing. Some of your subtitles are really misleading.

For example, "IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY"

You make it sound like the effect of immigration is to put more children in poverty. Nothing from your data suggests that it is the immigrants' children that are responsible to this measured increase in the poverty rate. (I hope you can see the difference.)

Example. Group A has 100 people with 10 people in poverty. Group B has 200 people with 100 people in poverty (as defined by the richer group's standards). 50 people from group B move (40 of the are poor.)

Now Group A has 150 people with 50 in poverty. Oh my goodness poverty has shot up to 33%!!! Curse those damn dirty immigrants!

Posted by: Good Boy on January 8, 2004 8:37 PM



Wow and gollygosh, the only person in the entire world with an IQ over 50 has finally spoken! Many thanks and much gratitude: so glad you stopped by.

What do you think, FvB? Me, I'm sure that Good Boy has done much more extensive research and has much more trustworthy figures than the LATimes and the WSJ do. And as for his reasoning powers ... Well, I'm flattened by them. What else can I say?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 8:48 PM



Good Boy writes,

"An increased supply of labor expands an economy ..."

Yeah, that's why the economies of Mexico, China, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, India, and Bangladesh are such powerhouses.

"Move then. The character of places changes."

Oh? Hey, can that ever work in reverse??? I mean ... you know! ... can the gringos move to a place like Mexico and take it completely over? Marxists like Good Boy would be howling like stuck pigs if Yanks -- especially white ones -- ever tried that. For Marxists like him, history can go only in one direction: toward the Marxist paradise (with him a member of the Nomenklatura, of course ...).

Posted by: Unadorned on January 8, 2004 9:41 PM



My goodness! This subject does seem to generate passionate feelings, doesn't it? What is it about blogs that so many people just get snotty when expressing a differing point of view? Is it pent-up aggression that people feel free to let loose with because this is somehow anonymous? You'd all get fired for speaking to coworkers like that. Not that I haven't commited the sin myself.

Anyway, I think the most damaging element (at least that we can identify now) is FvB's point that legit businessmen have to start cheating to compete---pay me cash, let me avoid taxes, because illegal immigrants can't be traced and pay no taxes. But they get to attend public schools. Something's gotta give there, and if Bush's plan forces more accountability and taxation for wages on immigrants, then that part is a good thing. If it doesn't, then I still don't get it at all.

Plus, someone somewhere said that this would prop up social security. But if they are showing up to take their "fair" (?) share out of social security at retirement age, and at their low wage level, they clearly would not have been the highest contributors into the SS pot, then I don't get that either.

And the comment, if you don't like it, move, seems bizarre. Why would LEGAL residents need to "move" to make room for illegal residents? It's the part not fully focused upon---these are ILLEGAL immigrants. Someone said they should be looked at as the industrious people who have moved to a new land to achieve a better life. Then why didn't they bother to do it legally?

Posted by: annette on January 8, 2004 11:12 PM



"Someone said they should be looked at as the industrious people who have moved to a new land to achieve a better life. Then why didn't they bother to do it legally?" -- Annette

Damn right! And why don't they do it in their own country, and make THAT into a better place, instead of coming here illegally?

Posted by: Unadorned on January 8, 2004 11:36 PM



No question that immigration has consequences, many of which are significant, and I do think that it's worth discussing those consequences openly.

It does strike me as odd, though, that two blowhards whose politics lean so heavily libertarian seem so decidedly non-libertarian on this particular issue -- I'd think the burden is on to explain why free mobility of labor is so much less desirable than free mobility of capital. And it would seem that the features you (at least implicitly) see as threatened by those new immigrants are fundamentally those of the welfare state -- benefits, high wage jobs, payroll taxes, etc. Those who desire a European style systems of social insurance have a big problem with costs imposed by mobility of labor -- check out Germany. But if your goal is the entrepreneur's paradise, why isn't a new wave of cheap labor and (presumably) entrepreneurially-driven people precisely what you're after? Or, to be snide, is it only an entrepreneurial dream open to those glorious, Wright-brothers like sons of the midwest?

(Of course, as a political matter, immigration is one of the social pressures that keeps the American welfare state limited; people simply aren't willing to pay as much for new arrivals, and haven't been for a long time; an old argument for why we never developed the European social welfare state on these shores).

Two more points:

1) I'm too lazy to dig up all the necessary data, which I'm largely remembering from back issues of the Economist, but Southern California's economy as a whole has largely survived the recession because of an abundance of relatively cheap manufacturing jobs, such as the toy industry, all of which are based around there. My understanding is that these sorts of jobs are now a mainstay -- if not the mainstay -- of the local economy, and have been since the big defense firms moved out and the dream of LA as a major financial center collapsed after the last season of LA law. So if immigration has costs, it also has a great deal of benefit, and significantly increased restrictions on immigration could prove deadly to business in the area.

2) All this talk about the advantages of cultural homogeneity strikes me as particularly weird given the aesthetic impulses that guide the most (IMHO -- it's your site to do whatever you want to with) interesting posts y'all put up seem directly opposed to this desire for monoethnic stability. Surely to cut off immigration is also to cut off a good chunk of what is most vital, new, and interesting in American culture, and live in a relatively bland and homogeneous society.

Posted by: williamsburger on January 9, 2004 12:05 AM



It strikes me looking at the comments box that the opening statement of my last comment is pretty embarassing --"no doubt that immigration has consequences."

What I meant was that there is no doubt that immigration has BAD consequences, at least for the native residents.

Which makes me think of an interesting moral question, although I don't have a good answer to it.

Here it is: Why should your right to stay and enjoy the benefits (higher wages, whatever) trump the right of the immigrant to come in and improve his own life? The answer can't be any conventional liberal or libertarian theory of force or property rights. No immigrant is compelling you to do anything; in fact, you are compelling the immigrant to stay out. Why, then, should your own ability to capture more of the benefits of a particular location override an immigrant's desire to capture any of it -- especially since, at least at the margins, the immigrant stands more to gain than you stand to lose? In what moral sense is it more your LA (remember, you've only been there about 20 years) than his? Again, remember, no immigrant is taking your property, life, or possession -- at most they're taking some remembered feature of your community.

Like I say, I don't have an answer to this question -- just posing it.

Posted by: williamsburger on January 9, 2004 12:34 AM



Annette -- It is strange, isn't it, the way some topics seem so terrifically hard to talk about without someone losing his top? I mean, it's not as if anyone's actually listening to our conversations on this blog, or as if our conversations are going to have any impact on pubilc policy. We're just a bunch of people comparing notes. I wonder why that's so -- I mean, why some topics seem to lead to explosions, and others don't, or at least are less prone to. Any thoughts?

Williamburger -- Thanks for the thoughtful questions, not that I have any even halfway decent responses to offer. I look forward to what FvB will say. In my admittedly halfbaked way, I'll try to take on two of your points.

First, why should I (or you, if you're in the US) have a claim to the rights and privileges of this country before an immigrant (or would-be immigrant) does. Well, actually, I don't know what to say to that. It seems to answer itself, in the way that "why should you have any right to have any say about who gets to enter and move into your house" does, even admitting that one owns a house yet belongs to a nation.

Is there something about the proposition that the preferences of the people who inhabit a country should have some impact on that country's immigration policies that you can find fault with? I certainly can't. I wouldn't expect, say, the Chinese to be thrilled if millions upon millions of Norwegians started migrating to China, or trying to -- I'd simply think, "Well, sheesh, it's their country, and maybe they don't like it, and why should they?" They'd probably view it as an invasion and respond as if it were, and I'd have no trouble understanding why. That would be that, at least as far as my brain and moral sense is concerned.

From a Godlike point of view, I suppose it could be said that we're all mere creatures inhabiting one planet among many, and that borders and laws are flimsy fictions, etc ... But none of us have God's p-o-v; we inhabit the real world, and we have families and friends and places of birth and homes. And in the world as it is each one of us is a citizen and inhabitant of a place and a nation; each place, nation and individual has a history, and these histories intermingle. It seems natural to feel a strong attachment to where you grew up and where you live, to the people you grew up with and live around. That seems natural too. Nation states are a fairly recent development, but people always seem to have clustered into social groups, to have had feelings of loyalty and devotion to what they felt was their group, and to have felt something along the lines of "us vs. them" vis a vis other groups. I'll pass on the question of whether this is good or bad and say only that, since it seems natural and inevitable, why not work with it rather than against it? I'm not sure that qualifies as anything like a first principle, but it works for me. And, to be honest, I'm not sure why a first-principles argument should trump any other.

I guess as a practical matter, what clinches things for me is reversing the question: why shouldn't millions of Norwegians move to China? Why shouldn't millions of Cambodians migrate into Algeria? Perhaps in some absolute sense, they should if they feel like it. But I dunno: in the real world, I'd simply expect the Chinese and the Algerians to think, "Whoa, baby, understand first that this is our place. We get to say who comes in and who doesn't." And that reaction wouldn't strike me as unreasonable, let alone evil or immoral. It would strike me as quite sensible and admirable, actually.

As for your thoughts about "cultural homogeneity," I guess I marvel that anyone could picture the US as culturally homogeneous, or as being in any danger of becoming culturally homogeneous. Homogeneous is the last thing I'd think of calling us. We've got people from all over, who do all kinds of fascinating cultural things: clog dancing, yard art, dirty-track racing, string quartets, Harley customizing, southern cooking, break dancing, street fairs, high fashion ... Seems like a huge, vibrant and diverse panorama to me, and not exactly something in dire need of getting further souped up.

My objection to making drastic changes in our ethnic/national/whatever mix is really a practical and a sentimental matter. Practically, you monkey with the ethnic composition of a nation at your peril; countries that do so simply don't have a very good record. Yanking population mixes around is playing with dynamite, and to deny that it carries risks strikes me as wildly irresponsible. Perhaps there's a chance it'll work out OK. But why take the chance, let alone subject an unwilling population to the risk? Seems like a foolhardy -- and completely unnecessary -- gamble.

As far as sentiment goes ... Well, our population mix is and has been a superterrific one. It's evolved, but it's also had its semi-consistent characteristics too, one of which has been the importance of black people in American life. I don't understand the way some people in the immigration debates throw around the word "racism" -- I'm really horrified that they do so -- when many of the people who suffer most from high rates of Latino immigration (especially illegal Latino immigration) are American black people.

Call me a big sap, but I love the fact that black people have been such a big presence in American life -- they've brought the country a lot of class, pleasure, style, energy and grace. So I think it's a disgrace that the country's elites are promoting policies that (IMHO, of course) are harmful to blacks. Cheap immigrant labor has been, according to at least some sources, especially hard on working-class black people. And the huge size of the Latino migration has already swamped, in pure numbers, our black population, who'll no longer be so important.

It's been one of the defining (and really groovy) characteristics of American life that black people were the big minority. And that's it -- it's over. They aren't #2 any longer, and that's thanks to these absurd immigration policies. For the very first time, we've entered an era during which black people will not be our defining and most important minority.

I think that's a tragedy and a crying shame. Yet it's the people who advocate these policies who are quick to call their opponents racist. Crazy world.

Like I say, thanks for the interesting remarks and ideas. Your thoughts about all of this?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 9, 2004 1:47 AM



Michael,

You're a big sap. ;)

It is possible, in the long run, you and Jesse Jackson will really be the only two people hurt by immigration -- maybe most black Americans will just get on with their lives being individuals,(perhaps employing a Mexican immigrant to cut their lawn)instead of being your pet minority.

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 9, 2004 9:55 AM



Good boy:

Curses, you've unmasked me as a bigot. I'll have to think up a fiendish plan to prevent my black, Asian and Latino employees from catching on. (Said while twirling my mustache.)

BTW, I'm confused; does being branded as a racist mean I can't notice the downsides of changing neighborhoods, or just that I can't talk about them? Maybe you can elucidate.

Williamsburger:

I have a nice life in Los Angeles. Despite the advice of Good boy, I'm not inclined to move. The downsides of immigration largely reach me via the government, or governmentally-provided services. Having the government of the city of Los Angeles constantly impoverished as a result of low tax revenues and high demands for services (like free health care) means that my taxes are higher and things like road repaving are a lot slower. The presence of so many immigrant children has trashed the L.A. Unified School System; which has forced me at one point to put my children in private school and eventually to move out of the city to a far more expensive neighborhood. The freeways are jammed, etc., etc. While you may suggest that these things wouldn't affect me if I lived in a libertarian paradise, uh, I can only answer that (1) I don't and (2) I'm not aware of where I can move to find one. So I am forced to bemoan the welfare state problems you note and others involving the provisioning of any governmental services whatever that you didn't note.

As for why the preferences of citizens should count for more than the preferences of non-citizen immigrants, I think that goes with the whole notion of nationhood (and the claims that nations impose on their citizens.)

But let's not do this at the 50,000 foot level--what we are talking about is largely the de facto merger of the U.S. and Mexico. If this is to happen, I would prefer it (and I suspect most people in both countries would prefer it) to happen on the terms of the U.S. But frankly, it seems as if this merger is taking place far more on the terms of Mexico. The Mexican elite (a rather sinister crew) still is in full control of their country, a control which they maintain by exporting their, er, surplus population. If we want to discuss racism, by the way, Victor David Hansen's book "Mexifornia" makes the point that the Mexican class structure looks pretty much as if it was designed by the KKK, with European whites firmly at the top and dark-skinned Mexicans of Indian descent firmly at the bottom. And we are the safety valve that lets this continue! Moreover, I can't walk into Mexico and make the same demands that the professional pro-immigrant crowd demands for Mexicans in my country: education in my children's native language (English), governmentally-provided health care, etc., etc. I mean, how exactly did America get to be the doormat here in this international dispute (which is what this situation really is)?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 9, 2004 9:55 AM



Mr. Mansour:

I don't mean to get into the way of you tweaking Michael, but I'm a bit hurt that you don't seem to have read my post:

It is possible, in the long run, you and Jesse Jackson will really be the only two people hurt by immigration...

Surely that's a conclusion you'll have to argue for, not just assume. And I would argue that the example of Southern California shows that the importation of very large numbers of poor, and poorly educated, people into an area and an economy will definitely cause problems. I mean, if immigrants are such an absolutely unmixed blessing, why have we seen the following in Southern California (the Ellis Island of modern immigration): (1) falling family incomes, (2) out-migration of non-immigrants, (3) increases in the both the distribution and the concentration of poverty, (4)serious financial strains on the public sector caused by lower tax collections and significantly increased demands for public services, etc., etc. It seems to me that the advocates of unlimited immigration have a case to prove here, unless they come to that position, er, theologically. At the very least, one might stop considering all immigrants as a homogenous group; clearly, immigrants differ greatly in their culture, education, aspirations, etc., and perhaps American immigration policy should reflect this.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 9, 2004 11:02 AM



As a Korean who immigrated to Canada (well my parents did so I had to follow), I noticed that there are 4 kinds of Korean immigrants.

1) With desire and money
2) With desire and no money
3) With money and no desire
4) With no money and no desire

What I mean by desire is willingness to work hard, to do what it takes to be self-sufficient and to take advantage of the greater economic opportunity. Money means that one brings in certain amount of assets so that one does not have to work really, really work or at minimum wage jobs, something like a startup capital.

My family fell into category 3. We represented the new wave of immigrants that were accepted by the Canadian government who had to have a minimum level of financial assets.

It was not my parents' wish to immigrate, but back in Korea, if one was pushed out of a company in early 50's, there was no other job available for a man who still had 15 years or more to work. Which made us belong to category 3 (and they made it clear that they came to give us a better opportunity, not to make better lives for themselves).

But my family has been living abroad already before coming to Canada, so my siblings and I did not go back to Korea anyway.

I believe that immigrants who succeed belong to category 1 and 2 (and I will more qualifications at the end). They represent the stereotypical immigrant success stories, where continuous life-long hard work, a modicum of intelligence and luck played an important role in making them.

Category 3 immigrants will not cause any burdens if they are millionaires; otherwise category 3 and 4 will add immense social pressures to the current Canadian welfare state policies.

Now the qualifications that I would like to add to category 1 and 2 are the psychological makeup of the immigrants to adapt to modern, individualistic, materialistic, entrepreneurial and free culture in North America, where nobody tells you what to do, so you have to take care of yourself. Otherwise another failure.

My suspicion is that the majority of the Mexican immigrants fall into category 4, where they come because their own government cannot take care of them.

Of course, I have a lot more to say on this, but this is supposed to be a brief comment.

Posted by: Bob Yu on January 9, 2004 11:20 AM



Fascinating thoughts and tales, thanks Bob. And don't hesitate to write more -- interesting stuff.

And can I take a moment to thank everyone for a classy discussion? Well, almost everyone? Heartening to see us all not fall into the trap of arguing (or accusing each other) the boring pro-immigrant or anti-immigrant thing. We all wish everyone well, a few tyrants and criminals excepted. The discussion's about current immigration policy, and Bush's immigration proposals. And we've done a great job of -- even while disagreeing -- understanding that decent people can disagree over these things. Thanks for that.

Now, back to the rumble.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 9, 2004 12:40 PM



Hey there Friedrich,

Are we neighbors? "Southern California" cuts a pretty wide swath. I'm right in here the City of Angels.

Posted by: Mark Sarvas on January 9, 2004 1:11 PM



I would think the best comparison wouldn't be between Los Angeles 1980 and Los Angeles 2000, but between American cities that have seen large waves of immigration and those that haven't. Personally, I think that LA has a lot going for it versus other big cities that have retained a largely black/white mix -- it'd be hard to argue that, say, Pittsburgh or Cleveland or Milwaulkee or St. Louis have spectacularly better provision of social welfare, or are substantially more pleasant places to live. In addition, FvB, it doesn't seem fair to blame immigration for the collapse of the California public school system; I'd be more likely to blame Prop. 13, although without data I'm in speculation land.

Attacking Mexican society for the problem doesn't seem like a particularly good approach to me, since if we want a better, more stable Mexico surely one of the best ways to do it is to create large numbers of people who will send American cultural ideas -- and, far more importantly, a lot of money -- back to our Southern neighbor. What's the alternative? Simply cutting off immigration is much more likely to lead to an explosion down there -- not to mention that it is essentially impossible to simply "cut off" immigration from the south in any circumstance, given the enormous economic incentive to come north.

As for Bob's comments, even if immigrants do fall into those four categories, how are we supposed to sort the good from the bad? Like any other form of social control, it would be hard for the government to make those choices, and could create some very nasty (and very racist, in the real sense) kinds of categorizations. Incidentally, I'd think that a Mexican immigrant who struggled to put together capital to find a Coyote, and then go on a brutal, life threatening journey through the desert, just in order to find work, should probably fall within the category of having "desire" to do well, but that's generalizing from another stereotype.

Posted by: williamsburger on January 9, 2004 1:48 PM



My suspicion is that the majority of the Mexican immigrants fall into category 4

Why would you assume that? As far as I can tell, most of the illegal immigrants are working their head off to send as much as they can back to their families south of the border. Illegally immigrating into the United States is not for the faint of heart. You're taking risks with your life. Doesn't sound like someone with no desire to work to me.

Besides, we're getting to the point that any company hiring North Americans for non-service jobs will have its management replaced. In the not-so-long run, moving to the United States won't net the immigrants anything.

Posted by: Tom West on January 9, 2004 1:54 PM



(repost from the below thread)

Few points here:

1) Big changes in the ethnic balance of a nation frequently lead to civil war or - at a minimum - fractious identity politics. Just a few examples: Yugoslavia, most of Africa, Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East. I am not white - I'm Asian. Can I now say this with impunity? It's a fact.

Let me put it another way. One of the big Mexican American groups is called National Council of La Raza. Yes, La Raza. As in "The Race" . You might also want to read about MECHA. This kind of explicit racialism is considered legitimate because Hispanics are a minority.

But what happens when whites are a minority in 2050? They are already not a plurality in California. Do you really want to see explicit white identity politics? Do you really want to see "the Race"? Think about it.

2) There are several big difference between previous waves of European immigrants and this wave.

a) First, there was an immigration moratorium from 1924-1965 that resulted in assimilation into one common American identity. It didn't happen by magic.

b) Second, voluntary newcomers did not receive hiring preferences on the basis of race, unlike today's Hispanic immigrants. They also were not plugged into a large network of social services.

c) Third, today's unskilled immigrants are substantially less educated than the average American. This is very different from the 1880's.

d) Lastly, we don't need massive pools of unskilled labor anymore. This is the information economy. Large pools of unskilled labor retard the move towards automated agriculture, a move which has happened in the Midwest - but not in the Southwest. It is just like the situation in the antebellum South - it did not industrialize because it had large pools of slave labor.

3) Finally, what Thrasymachus is trying to say (I think) is that neighborhoods with large concentrations of Hispanics and blacks tend to have high crime rates and tend to not have very good school districts. That is not true for areas with large concentrations of whites and Asians. Ask yourself whether that is true before you react to it. Alternatively, you can use this city compare tool to analyze the trends in your local area by comparing the demographics and crime rate of any two cities.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist on January 9, 2004 5:21 PM



Also, the difference between free trade and the free movement of labor is this: people bring along a lot more baggage than a box of playstations. There are all kinds of assimilation and national security considerations that arise when you bring workers into the US with the intention of making them citizens.

Second point - what is the difference between outsourcing a plant to Mexico via NAFTA vs. bringing Mexican laborers to the US? The difference is that Mexican laborers in the US would be net transfer payment recipients, and would bring down the US GDP-per-capita. (see calculation below) That would also reduce the transfer payment pie for those who are already poor Americans.

Opening a NAFTA plant in Mexico, by contrast, has a much more surgical effect - it only affects those in the inefficient industry, rather than society at large.

Large concentrations of unskilled workers means high transfer payments, high assimilation costs, and budget deficits that aren't defrayed by tax revenue. See my back of the envelope calculation (with links) here:

Consider: Education alone costs about $7000 per child per capita in California. As the majority of unskilled immigrants are Hispanic (with a significant Asian minority), we'll use the Census figures for growth. Your average Hispanic immigrant family has about 3 children.
Posted by: godlesscapitalist on January 9, 2004 5:27 PM




if immigrants do fall into those four categories, how are we supposed to sort the good from the bad?

The question I would like to ask is: Does the current US immigration policy even attempt to sort immigrants?

Suppose that I were a legal US resident wannabe, what do I have to do? I cannot just ask for a green card, for I don't know anybody else who succeeded in that way.

Having lived in Chicago for 6 months on a tourist visa and worked in NYC for 2 years on a work visa (TN-1), I have a certain idea about getting the Green card.

The first step: Get into US no matter how. There are many ways a foreigner can enter US for an extended period: get a work visa, apply for asylum, be a tourist, apply for a university, and buy a residential building. All methods are accessible to any foreigner with varying difficulty, tourist being the easiest.

The second step would be to get a SSN, fake or real, because it's needed to establish an address (rent an apartment) and to accumulate funds (banks).

The third step would be live for 5 years after which I can apply for a Green card. Wait until it is issued. Or marry an American (which is what my sister did).

In short, from a legal US-resident wannabe, the only criteria is to squat in US until he can apply for a Green card.

This is the real US immigration policy - legalize whomever has been here long enough. The latest Bush policy underscores my point by following the same principle.

Now when my family was in Chicago (we were waiting for Canadian immigration paper to be issued), my mother was eligible for a minor breast surgery (related to a benign tumor I think) and received the treatment almost for free, thanks to a generous US policy for low-income families.

I have no idea how she was qualified (the children were going to school, so she was the designated protector, but for us to enter elementary schools (not private), we would have to be legal residents, aargh my head spins here), but I am very grateful.

How did she find out? She had a close friend who was working as a nurse so the friend was able to her her through the system.

Imagine 100,000 immigrants who come because they know that they can receive such free services. Imagine them using the system effectively because they already have friends and relatives here who show them how. Imagine the stress on the tax payer's money.

In short, there is no coherent immigration policy, let alone a policy that tries to determine the desirability of an immigrant. Once we have that policy, then we could question and criticize its social engineering effect or its effectiveness.


...should probably fall within the category of having "desire" to do well, but that's generalizing from another stereotype.

As far as I can tell, most of the illegal immigrants are working their head off to send as much as they can back to their families south of the border.

Which is why I added the qualifications: ability to work and live adapted to the American way.

I could almost say that there are no lazy immigrants. The fact that they risked something ranging from their lives to familiar lifestyles back home means that they are willing to change for something better.

But are they coming to join the American way or to ride the benefit of the American way? Why don't the Chinese and Koreans get bad raps like the Mexicans do? Is it just a matter of numbers (more Mexicans)? Is there something fundamentally qualitatively different from a Korean immigrant to Mexican immigrant?

Is it race, culture, language or education?

You must choose the immigrants that's most likely to economically and culturally succeed in US. If one had to choose now between 1,000 British immigrants and 1,000 Mexican immigrants, who would you choose? I would bet the British. What about 1,000 Japanese immigrants and 1,000 Mexicans? I would be the Japanese.

Surely Japanese and British do not share much culturally yet both come out ahead of Mexicans. Why is that?

Economically and technologically, both Japan and Britain come ahead of Mexico - is that the reason?

In order to explain why that would be a book (and I can't write that book), but the good starting point would be Ken Wilber's work. Fundamentally, we can't say make blanket policies where they treat every immigrant in identical fashion.

I guess what I am struggling to express can be illustrated by the following principle: It's not whether marriage is a good thing or bad thing or an outdated institution or legal/illegal for gays - what's important is who are you getting married to?

Who are the immigrants and what kind of effect do they have on US and what can US do for them?

Posted by: Bob Yu on January 9, 2004 5:39 PM



My very first inclination is to slap the stuffing out of Michael and Bob Yu, but I will refrain from being impatient and insulting, and tell you my own unique point of view.

I am considered by the U.S.A. to be of Pacific Islander origin. I am immigrant. I have family members who used to be or are illegal immigrants and family members who are legal immigrants. Suffice to say, this issue is very important to me. Also, despite my Pacific Islander heritage and my Asian appearance, I closely identify with the strong Spanish influence in my culture, and so, in a parallel universe, my home country would be sitting pretty off the coast of Mexico instead of being strung out in the South China Sea. I am sure you can guess what is the exact name of my country. In this way I closely identify with Mexicans and other Hispanics due to our common history of being overrun by Spanish Conquistadors.

Anyway, I am biased here so I was shocked and dismayed by the incredibly uneducated and generalized comments in this otherwise well written blog.

Illegal immigrants keep your produce prices down. You like the price of your pears? What if we eliminated every illegal immigrant off the country? You would be in for a nasty shock when you go to the grocery store.

I know that the current infrastructure can not sustainably support everybody, but we must fight to meet a middle ground, because there is such a symbiotic relationship between the illegals and the country. We are already here! We came here for the American dream, damn it!

I think we should have some sort of amnesty program that makes people legal after a certain amount of time and after demonstrating their loyalty to the U.S. Imagine some child who is torn, like so many people I know, knowing the Pledge of Allegiance by heart, reading about Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, and not being able to go to college due to their situation, and not being able to get a job....what a travesty!

Furthermore,
Michael, your view point on black people is frankly incredibly patronizing and insulting. I second the view that they are your "pet minority." They might as well wear hats and be your organ monkey. Well at least, we came here of our own free will, which is something we can't say for the ancestors of black people. Pity that is.

Bob Yu. I am sure you don't know much Mexicans, so I will take your comment with a grain of salt, but I can't help but feel absolutely outraged by your comment about Mexicans having no money and no desire. I am sure the whole lot of them can beat your ass when it comes to stretching a dollar. Or working a menial job for only 2$ a day, you know laying mortar or whatnot. I have known plenty of Mexicans so your comment rings utterly false to me.

Now let's say we play a game. Why don't we drop Michael or Bob Yu in the middle of Oaxaca. Let's say we saddle them with a wife and five kids. Give them a farm, a drought...whatever. Let's say they don't want their kids to grow up and be like them. Now how fast can you guess that Mikey or Bobby here will hightail it to the border with a coyote and nothing but the shirts on their backs. See?

Heck, let everybody come. Make them legal. Make them pay taxes. At least we can use some of the money to pay off that stupid war in the Middle East.

Posted by: Expat_baby on January 9, 2004 6:31 PM



In my haste, I forgot to edit my post. Thus any grammatical mistakes are entirely to be blamed on my impatience.

Posted by: expat_baby on January 9, 2004 6:38 PM



On reading more, I see that you reference Hanson. I should have known.

Posted by: expat_baby on January 9, 2004 6:42 PM



Friedrich,

To be honest with you, I did read your post, I thought it was kind of weak, as you were just quoting various papers, made no particular arguments of your own, and even claimed to be agnostic on the subject, but then claimed immigration made things unequivocally worse in California. I thought it was hastily put together. Furthermore, Good Boy made a couple of good points that I thought you would need to respond to, but Michael just ridiculed him and you have ignored him. So it didn’t seem to make much sense to take the time to reply (but I couldn’t resist tweaking Michael.)

Anyway, since you have taken me to task, I will rephrase Good Boy’s questions. If these are illegitimate or inappropriate in any way, I’d appreciate knowing why.

You title two sections in your post as follows:

1. IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON HOUSEHOLD INCOME IN LOS ANGELES

2. IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY

But nowhere in the quotes that follow, or the titles of the newspaper articles, does it mention anything about immigration. Do you just assume that anything bad in California is caused by immigration, or did you cut sections of the articles that at least claimed if not proved that immigration was the cause of falling incomes and poverty? If I should read the full articles, you should probably provide links in the original post. The fact that you would toss these into your post, and title them as you did, and then top it all off by saying, “Incidentally, I would say that I'm fairly agnostic about the whole topic of immigration” struck me as rather, I don’t know, lame?

Furthermore, as Good Boy noted but you ignored, who’s incomes are falling? Are existing California residents real incomes falling, or are new immigrants swelling the ranks of lower incomes groups and affecting the numbers? Ditto for children living in poverty.

Finally, as I’ve noted in my previous comments, I’m sympathetic to arguments that we need to regulate immigration and ensure assimilation and not create new entitlement groups. I just don’t really get your and Michael’s arguments. For example, does it really matter to anyone except the race counters if there are more Hispanics than blacks in America? Are the profound accomplishments of black Americans lessened if they are not the biggest minority? Michael writes: “And the huge size of the Latino migration has already swamped, in pure numbers, our black population, who'll no longer be so important.” Only to those politicians playing the race card. The cultural contributions of black Americans are not in proportion to the their percentage of the population (they are way over), which is exactly why Michael thinks a large black minority is “groovy”. I don’t understand this at all. Am I the only one who found Michael’s comments on this a bit condescending ?

Again, I think it is imperative that immigrants are assimilated, and I am open to arguments that assimilation takes time, and we may have to set limits, but it appears to me that you guys are all over the place on this.

I hope I have not stepped over the line and been offensive to you or MvB in my comments.

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 9, 2004 6:48 PM



Oh forgot to mention that I USED TO BE illegal! LOL! I used to be one big fat dirty illegal immigrant. But you can't deport me now. I am a tax paying, working and educated member of society. Gee? How did that happen?

Okay I will stop now and behave more or less. There must be soemthing in this Starbucks cocoa.

Posted by: expat_baby on January 9, 2004 6:55 PM



Paul -- You write: "I’m sympathetic to arguments that we need to regulate immigration and ensure assimilation and not create new entitlement groups," so I'm not sure we're far apart on much of anything. I'm not attacking immigration, just dissing current arrangements (which, as Bob Yu's comment seems to me to illustrate, are worse than irrational -- they're chaotic) and Bush's proposals (which strike me as amplifying the chaos). You do seem a lot more optimistic than I am that we can survive a big demographic change without interest-group politics becoming more of a problem than it is now. But who knows, maybe you're right (though I suspect you aren't). I'm not sure why you find my view of black people in the midst of all this patronizing. Why is it condescending -- and not, say, useful -- to point out that their importance as a presence in America is being diminished by current rates and patterns of immigration?

Expat Baby -- Thanks for sharing, though I'm not sure what it was exactly. I bet that cocoa was good.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 9, 2004 7:27 PM



Thanks for dismissing my post.

Posted by: Expat_baby on January 9, 2004 7:40 PM



Expat Baby -- Apologies, genuinely didn't mean to be dismissive. But, unless I misunderstood, you didn't seem to be dealing with our point, which is to take issue not with immigrants, god bless 'em, but specifically with Bush's proposals and more grandly with current immigration arrangements. I suppose a case can be made that current immigration arrangements are sane, rational and well-conducted, and I suppose a case can be made that Bush's proposals make a lot of sense. I'm open to hearing both arguments. But I'm not eager or willing to be attacked as someone who's anti-immigrant. I'm not; I just think Bush's proposals, and the 1965 Immigration Act, are stinkers.

Very interested to hear how you're reacting to Bush's proposals, in any case. Are you a fan?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 9, 2004 7:51 PM



Michael,

I guess I don't understand your comments. You wrote "...but I love the fact that black people have been such a big presence in American life -- they've brought the country a lot of class, pleasure, style, energy and grace."

I could say this about about Jews, Italians, Irish, and the Chinese, and every other immigrant group. Large Hispanic immigration would reduce the respective percentages of all other minorities (and majorities!), making them all "less important" Why single out black Americans?

Is it because they were the biggest minority? The poorest minority? The historical legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws? There are more groovy or have contributed more to the US than, say, Jews? Because you view them as a monolithic voting bloc, unlike, say, the Chinese? I don't think you do, which is perhaps why I don't understand the point of your comments.

I could say, for example, that perhaps the British have contributed the most to everything that makes America important and good, like justice, the rule of law, freedom, and rights. Hispanic immigration reduces the percentage of those of British decent. That's a shame. Would you agree with this line of reasoning? Perhaps this analogy does not hold up. Why not? It seems you are going to have to elevate the group over the individual to justify singling out blacks.

I don't see the accomplishments of Michael Jordon, Condi Rice, or Bradform Marsalis being less to them or to us, if now blacks are not the largest minority.

What about other African immigrants? If we accepted many from Senegal and Nigeria, would they count towards the black minority?

I don't know, maybe it's just me, and I misunderstood what you meant.


Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 9, 2004 8:14 PM



Illegal immigrants keep your produce prices down. You like the price of your pears? What if we eliminated every illegal immigrant off the country? You would be in for a nasty shock when you go to the grocery store.

False. link

Many people fear the first part of such a response, claiming that prices for fruits and vegetables would skyrocket, fueling inflation. But since all unskilled labor — from Americans and foreigners, in all industries — accounts for such a small part of our economy, perhaps four percent of GDP, we can tighten the labor market without any fear of sparking meaningful inflation. Agricultural economist Philip Martin has pointed out that labor accounts for only about ten percent of the retail price of a head of lettuce, for instance, so even doubling the wages of pickers would have little noticeable effect on consumers.

Also, illegals (and unskilled immigrants in general) are net transfer payment recipients. Pro-illegals La-Times admits it is anywhere from 40-60% of Cali's budget deficit:

So here's the bottom line: The total the state spends on illegal immigrants is no more than $4.6 billion a year, with CalWorks being a judgment call. This is a substantial amount, but clearly not enough to account for all of the state's budget gap, which is running $8 billion to $12 billion annually.

So: what is saved at the store shelf is more than lost in taxes and assimilation costs.

We are already here! We came here for the American dream, damn it!

So did millions of others who obeyed the laws and didn't jump the queue. If we're going to get personal on this...like *my* relatives and like *Bob's* relatives.

Heck, let everybody come.

Total open borders = tens of millions of people overnight. It means the end of the American nation. What nation has ever allowed entirely open immigration? It means that every single person in the whole world can become an American citizen if they can afford a plane ticket or a parachute. Leaving aside the obvious problems with spies, terrorists, and plunderers...we can't possibly assimilate that many, and in any case the unskilled ones are net transfer payment recipients.

For example, does it really matter to anyone except the race counters if there are more Hispanics than blacks in America? Are the profound accomplishments of black Americans lessened if they are not the biggest minority?

No, but it increases ethnic enmity. Besides, there is the preferences ratio to consider. It's one thing if black Americans are 10-12% of the population and receive economic and academic preferences. It's quite *another* thing when voluntary Hispanic (and African) immigrants are suddenly eligible for preferences that were supposed to be for the descendants of slaves and Native Americans.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist on January 9, 2004 8:28 PM



Paul -- You don't think that the black presence in America's history has been something special and even defining? I guess we do differ on that, then.

But I think our real difference has to do with whether or not we'll all be functioning as individuals or as members of groups in the future. I suppose the only sensible answer is "both, of course." But where you seem to think the increased Latino presence will dissolve group rivalries, I think there's good reason to fear that large-scale demographic changes are going to inflame group rivalries. I guess we're gonna see how it plays out, in any case. Should be interesting.

Posted by: MIchael Blowhard on January 9, 2004 8:31 PM



Michael,

"-- You don't think that the black presence in America's history has been something special and even defining?"

Yes, in fact, I do. But, for example, I'm still against affirmative action, and I'd would not want to base my immigration policy on whether or not the percentage of blacks or a particular group goes up or down. The important thing to me is are the new immigrants assimilated into American culture. Maybe I'm naive here. But we can agree to disagree.

To get back on topic, regarding immigration in general, the biggest problem in the world for the 21st century is going to be population decline (or decline in growth)exactly the opposite of what the doomsdayers were saying in the 70's. Many countries in Europe have little or no growth in population.

People are the ultimate resouce. This is one reason why I'm for lots of steady, orderly, continuous, (and legal) immigration. Obviously you don't throw open the borders, but birth rates like Italy are not going sustain and build wealthy societies. (Don't get me wr

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 9, 2004 8:56 PM



Oops, those last two paragraphs don't belong there. I meant to cut them out... that's a whole new thread, which I don't have the energy to follow up on.

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 9, 2004 8:58 PM



Paul:

I think worries of population decline are as unwarranted as worries of overpopulation for two reasons.

1) Natural selection will change the distribution within one generation. That is, if you assume that the tendency to reproduce is even imperfectly heritable (whether culturally or genetically), then the children of more fertile individuals will in turn tend to be more fertile.

So, for example, suppose we have a population of 50% group A and 50% group B. Group A reproduces at 1.0 per generation, and group B reproduces at 2.0 per generation. In the first generation, the result is 1.5 kids - below replacement. But in the second generation, we must account for the fact that the population fraction of group B has increased.

The assumption that there exist groups within the population that reproduce at more than the replacement rate is always true in practice. More here, with reproductive fitness estimates.

"I was staggered by the results we got," said Dr Owens. "When we decided to control for these factors, I wasn't expecting anything to come out of it. I thought, 'let's just run with the analysis'. But there was a massive difference in the number of children born to families with a religious affiliation. Many of the Catholic twins we studied had an average family of five children, where other families were having only one or two children.

"We also found that mothers with more education were typically having just one child at an older age. Their reproductive fitness was much lower than their peers who left school as early as possible. Again, and again, our analyses for these two factors came back with the same results."

2) Reproductive technologies will change most of the game in the very near future (decades). One could argue that they will also change humans - so why worry about immigration - but immigration has short term consequences as well.

Lastly, high immigration is only useful in averting economic decline if the prospective immigrant workers are net contributors on average. But unskilled immigrants are net transfer payment recipients . See above, particularly the LA Times data. Therefore, they will exacerbate the problem of having too small of a transfer payment pie.

Skilled immigrants are a different matter.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist on January 9, 2004 10:09 PM



Mr. Mansour:

In your comment you say:

1. IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON HOUSEHOLD INCOME IN LOS ANGELES

2. IMPACT OF IMMIGRATION ON CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY

But nowhere in the quotes that follow, or the titles of the newspaper articles, does it mention anything about immigration. Do you just assume that anything bad in California is caused by immigration, or did you cut sections of the articles that at least claimed if not proved that immigration was the cause of falling incomes and poverty? If I should read the full articles, you should probably provide links in the original post. The fact that you would toss these into your post, and title them as you did, and then top it all off by saying, “Incidentally, I would say that I'm fairly agnostic about the whole topic of immigration” struck me as rather, I don’t know, lame?

Uh, how should I put this? The articles I quoted from are not available via a link; you have to pay for them (like I did.) Sorry I didn't have time to make the link between immigration and the observed trend explicit; I assumed that it would be, well, obvious. After all, the 1990s were generally perceived as a time of a roaring economy. The entire rest of the country's per household income rose. Northern California's income rose astonishingly. Southern California's per household income fell. The reason is the massive in-migration of millions of people who are earning roughly minimum wage. (All the same holds true for the children living in poverty; I would simply add the fact that the fertility of immigrants is quite a bit higher than that of, er, natives. I am a little astonished to see that you question the link of either of these outcomes to immigration.

So, I'm sorry if spending several hours (and shelling out $15) piecing together facts that are inconvenient to your thesis that immigration is an unmixed good strikes you as lame. I'll try to work harder at my absolutely free blog next time.

As for being agnostic on immigration, I am; I like and respect immigrants as individuals (by and large) but I am unable to be sublimely unaware of the downsides of millions and millions of them. Sorry if this also strikes you as lame.

Now; how about actually addressing the point of my comment, which is that since we don't live in a libertarian paradise, but rather a country in which the top third of the income distribution is expected to provide governmental services for the whole population, that the immigration of millions of poorly-educated, low-skilled immigrants who may well be sopping up more in government services and other externalities is going to be much better for the immigrants than for the locals, unless the locals are in the few industries that profit greatly from low cost labor (restaurants, clothing manufacture, etc.) But since I'm not, I'm not entirely happy about being the source of yet another subsidy.

Perhaps, one day, a fairly long while from now, these people's descendants will be up the learning curve, but for now, come on--there's a reason that they are paid minimum wage or sub-minimum wage. To spell this out for you, it's because they can't make much of a productive contribution. But they consume a variety of resources now just like everybody else. Does this make them evil? No. But their not being evil doesn't mean the rest of us--not living in a libertarian paradise--have to cheer the influx of limitless quantities of newcomers. If I'm confused about this, I would like to be corrected, but on a bit more substantive level than being told I'm, er, "lame."

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 10, 2004 3:42 PM



Friedrich,

A point off the bat: Why do keep accusing me of holding the position that immigration is an “absolutely unmixed blessing” or that “ immigration is an unmixed good”? Is it simply because I have taken issue with your post and your use of statistics? I have never remotely said anything like this in ANY of my comments in response to your post or MvB previous post on immigration. In fact, in just about every comment I have made, I have stressed the problems and great danger of the multi-culti leftists turning immigrants into dependent constituents, rather than hard-workers and entrepreneurs.

Ok, back to the substance. In your first comment, when you took me to task for responding to another comment, rather than to your own august post, you wrote:

“I mean, if immigrants are such an absolutely unmixed blessing, why have we seen the following in Southern California (the Ellis Island of modern immigration): (1) falling family incomes, (2) out-migration of non-immigrants, (3) increases in the both the distribution and the concentration of poverty, (4)serious financial strains on the public sector caused by lower tax collections and significantly increased demands for public services, etc., etc”

Like your original post, this seems to clearly imply that immigration causes the incomes of NATIVE families, and perhaps immigrants who arrived a few years earlier, to fall. The incomes of the recent immigrants are, in fact, probably rising from what they were in Mexico. Of course the immigrants, just by the fact that they migrate to CA, swell the ranks of the lowest paid. But these are two very different concepts, and it appeared to me that you were confusing the two. Comparing stats across time to prove a preconceived notion, without noting that the sample population is fundamentally different is a very common mistake in economic statistics (one that Thomas Sowell has expounded on repeatedly). Now, in your last post, you write:

“Northern California's income rose astonishingly. Southern California's per household income fell. The reason is the massive in-migration of millions of people who are earning roughly minimum wage.”

Ok, so here it seems that you recognize that falling per household income does not (necessarily) hurt the residents of Southern California if the cause is increased immigration, rather than a fall in the incomes of existing residents. In other words the population makeup is changing over time. In fact, falling average or median per-household income can be consistent with a rise in every single individual family’s income, if there are many new families coming into the population either through immigration or rising birth rates. Correct?

So your newspaper quotes and statistics regarding household income and children living in poverty don’t prove, nor provide any extra evidence, that Southern California residents have been hurt by immigration. It appears you made an honest, and common, error with statistics.

Don’t get me wrong, as far as I’m concerned, California may well be a disaster due to too much immigration and too many misguided multi-culti policies, but misusing statistics to prove your point doesn’t make for a solid argument. It is particularly important to get the arguments for or against immigration on solid footing because issue mixes economics, politics, culture and democracy in a way that few other issues do. (It is my feeling that most of the purely economic arguments against immigration suffer from the same fallacies that afflict arguments against free-trade, arguments for rent-control, argument for a “living wage” etc. )

Another point : I’m still puzzled by your claim that you are “agnostic” on immigration. What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean that there are pros and cons to immigration and that you have not yet sifted through all the facts to take a position on the current situation? Do you mean that some immigration is good, a lot is bad, and you don’t have a clue as to where the dividing line is? Do you mean that it is unknowable if the benefits outweigh the costs in the current situation? You spent two hours and $15 compiling statistic-laden articles with evidence (some legit, some not, as I note above) that the current immigration situation in Southern California is very bad for the state. You feel that you, personally, have seen things go down hill in Southern California due to immigration. You have said that you personally will not “profit greatly” from low cost labor. You’ve assembled hard facts and anecdotal evidence that things generally stink.

But the only thing you have said in favor of immigration is anecdotal: you are the grandson of immigrants, you employ some immigrants, and you like and respect some of the immigrants you know. And this isn’t even really anecdotal evidence, it’s just along the lines of “some of my best friends are immigrants.” Is that all you’ve got on the plus side? No facts and figures on the positive aspects of immigration? If so, how could you possibly be agnostic about it? Maybe instead of “agnostic“ you meant personally or emotionally conflicted, or some other word or concept?

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 11, 2004 7:15 PM



Friedrich,

You wrote:

“Now; how about actually addressing the point of my comment, which is that since we don't live in a libertarian paradise, but rather a country in which the top third of the income distribution is expected to provide governmental services for the whole population, that the immigration of millions of poorly-educated, low-skilled immigrants who may well be sopping up more in government services and other externalities is going to be much better for the immigrants than for the locals, unless the locals are in the few industries that profit greatly from low cost labor (restaurants, clothing manufacture, etc.) But since I'm not, I'm not entirely happy about being the source of yet another subsidy.

"Perhaps, one day, a fairly long while from now, these people's descendants will be up the learning curve, but for now, come on--there's a reason that they are paid minimum wage or sub-minimum wage. To spell this out for you, it's because they can't make much of a productive contribution. But they consume a variety of resources now just like everybody else. Does this make them evil? No. But their not being evil doesn't mean the rest of us--not living in a libertarian paradise--have to cheer the influx of limitless quantities of newcomers. If I'm confused about this, I would like to be corrected, but on a bit more substantive level than being told I'm, er, "lame."”

Hmm...I wonder if it is possible to separate out the issue of “we don’t live in a libertarian paradise” from the issue of immigration, to see if it can perhaps shed some light on the economic calculus that seems to be at issue here. This is distinct from the cultural calculus, like having Spanish as a second official language etc. To keep the analysis focused on the economic, assume would be immigrants are indentical culturally to Americans in every way. The only difference is they live in another country that is generally somewhat poorer than the US.

Assume for a moment that California was a lean, mean libertarian state, in a lean and mean libertarian US government. Assume the only government services were the basics: fire, police, some transportation, national defense, and basic, well run, no nonsense education. There could also be a very small and meager social safety net. There would still be some cost to government, and hence taxes.

How would you decide whether or not to let a particular immigrant in? Assume we required an immigrant to show he could get a job. Would you only admit the immigrant if he could find a job that paid high enough to cover all the per-person costs of government, for him, his wife and his children? In other words, would you be in favor of what is essentially a potentially high minimum wage for immigrants? Would you give preference to single men, who would work and only have to cover themselves, over entire families with children but only one wage earner? Would you expel immigrants who had too many children, but did not increase their incomes, and could not cover the cost-of-government allocation?

How would it affect poor Americans if only high-value immigrants are let in the country? Would it breed resentment along the lines of “who do all these so-and-so’s think they are, making more money than us Americans?”

Would you allow immigration at all, and if so why? Hey, what really IS good about immigration? It occurs to me that many of the arguments that one might make FOR immigration could be in direct conflict with this economic calculus principle that many people seem to favor.

These are just some hastily thrown together questions that you have got me thinking about. I don’t know the answers, but it may be an interesting line of inquiry.

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 11, 2004 8:02 PM



Mr. Mansour:

When I pointed out that average family incomes in Southern California were falling, I wasn't suggesting that the 'natives' were being directly impoverished by immigration. However, the natives can be damaged in a number of 'indirect' ways by such falling average income, especially when it is the result of the in-migration of very poor people. Some ways in which this can occur include:

- Poor people need more public assistance in all sorts of ways. If local and state government is paying for this type of assistance, it's not paying for middle class amenities. This lowers the quality of life for the more affluent 'natives.' (E.g., in today's NYT article, "Imagining a Nation without Its Illegal Immigrants" the figure is quoted that Los Angeles was forced to shell out $340 million in 2002 to pay for health care costs of uninsured illegal immigrants. Obviously, the costs associated with all immigrants who lack health care is substantially higher.)

- Poor people represent less economic opportunity for a large segment of community businesses. Perhaps you can imagine the likely reaction of Rodeo Drive merchants to an announcement that tens of thousands of minimum-wage earners would be moving into Beverly Hills. I suspect it would not be positive.

- An influx of poor people and an increase in concentrated poverty results in increased crime. Again, this is a significant quality of life issue.

- In Southern California, poorer people who want to become home owners must buy at the urban periphery, thus putting very large strains on an already inadequate transportation network.

I'm sorry if I was unclear, but I sort of assumed that these types of impacts were obvious. Perhaps if you don't live in an area with a great deal of immigration they're not so obvious.

I'll have to get back to you in a bit on the issues raised in your other comment.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 11, 2004 8:32 PM



Oh, the delusions...
They're "coming for jobs". Here are some unemployment rates for California
counties: Fresno 14.9% Merced 17% Stanislaus 16% Colusa 22% Tulare 27%(no,
that's not a typo!) Imperial 25% these are all in the heart of the agric. areas where
they are supposedly short of farmworkers; it's total B.S. (you can add 5% to these numbers
for the uncounted illegals)....what you WILL find in these places: fat Mexicans
(who have learned to milk the disability/SSI system--you can be disabled from obesity!)
in SUVs waddling through the parking lots at Costco and Wal-Mart; broken
health care systems, with hospitals being driven under; the better-off Mexicans
fleeing their own neighborhoods, but without a single good word to say about
America, no Mexican political voice besides a snarling "Raza/Recongquista" rant.
They come from an inferior culture and have a big complex about it--and it's all
America's fault. These counties continue to be inundated with new arrivals--there's
no jobs for the ones already here, so what do you think they're doing?
If they're so hard working, why are they turning type 2 diabetic at record rates? Why are
their kids so fat? The worst obesity stat in the U.S. is hispanic teen girls (40%).

"They have traditional/family values" This is an artifact of the California of my
youth (the 1960's) it's no longer even close to the truth. Sure, they're pushing whites
out of the Catholic churches, but they don't put anything in the collection basket.
I've been watching this happen in Merced, where my parents helped pay for a new
church; I was there when the priest comes in and says, "from now on this mass will be
held in Spanish" -and for you old whites who paid for it..suckers! The
Mexicans exhibit behavior that would have gotten me kicked out-- they walk in wearing
tank tops (formal wear for them is a new football jersey) and what is it with the
Mexican women and their screaming children? Are they deaf?

"Family values" for the new immigrants is allegiance to their race, and often to their
gang. The schools where I went had minimal discipline problems, never a single
episode with weapons. Today they are gang-infested monstrosities ruled by fear. Just
a great learning environment huh? People are are shot for wearing a blue shirt or a red hat;
the gangs even open fire based on the color of your car (it's red for "Surenos" and blue
for "Nortenos").

I turn on one of the Spanish-language networks last week and it's a press
conference by Mexican families whose children were killed by one of those hard-
working immigrants who ran back to Mexico where they sit, thumbing their nose and
protected by the Mexican gangster-state. Funny how this rarely gets covered by the
major media.

If you would like a snapshot of the ongoing California Collapse: try www.MercedSun-Star.com
just about the last newspaper in the state that still publishes the racial ID of
criminal suspects on the loose (notice how often the authorities are now withholding
this info, even when they have captured a repeat offender?) you can readily see
who it is that is running the methamphetamine trade, and ripping off everything
that isn't nailed down (Calif. farmers are plagued with endemic theft of equipment
and supplies). However, thislast window on reality may be coming to an end, as the McClatchy conglom-
erate that owns the papers in Fresno, Modesto, and Sacramento just bought it
and will probably soon proceed with the suppression of the truth. Because ignorance
is bliss, right?

The jobs fly out, the immigrants pour in. How does that add up? Has anybody called
up Shill Clinton and asked him where are those "export jobs" he kept yakking about
when he and Al Whore were selling NAFTA, GATT, and the WTO. And Shillary,
who sat there with the same stupid Stepford-wife smile through it all, has the nerve
to snivel about the "Bush administration policies" when it was her husband who put
it all in place.
Admit it: the John Birch Society was right all along, all the way back to the 50's--which is why they
had to be smeared (including a verified media plant by the KGB). It is so ironic
today to see the University twit-class oohing and aahing over Noam Chomsky's
boilerplate criticisms of global corpocracy--and most of what he says is just plain
vanilla Bircher analysis from 40 years ago! (Except he doesn't say anything about
immigration).

Posted by: Mark T on January 12, 2004 8:09 PM



Regulation of immigration allows for far, far better control of externalities caused by immigration -- which can be very important for maintaining a stable society.

Eliminate the difference between legal and illegal immigrants, and all kinds of ridiculous costs will wind up being imposed on the existing American citizenry.

Posted by: Dog of Justice on January 12, 2004 9:10 PM






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