Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jencks on consequences of immigration

One of the few benefits of not being employed is being able to admit when you're late with something but it's interesting anyway. Last fall Christopher Jencks, formerly of Northwestern, laid out a characteristically straightforward account of the "immigration charade," as he calls it, in the guise of a review of a somewhat confused Pat Buchanan book. Here's the nugget:
Allowing employers to hire immigrants almost guarantees that unskilled natives will have more trouble finding steady work. Between 2000 and 2005 the unemployment rate among eighteen-to-sixty-four-year-old natives without high school diplomas rose from 10 to 14 percent; among their foreign-born counterparts it fell from 9 to 7 percent.
(The numbers are from this article from the Center for Immigration Studies by Steven Camarota.)

Jencks contends that a balance must be struck between the needs of native dropouts and of desperate immigrants, and that
The only way to strike a balance is to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, offer visas to more unskilled foreign-born workers, and set the number of visas with an eye on how that number will affect job opportunities for unskilled natives.
Note the strategically deployed passive voice. Any administration that did this would have to be willing to offend powerful employer lobbies, powerful immigrant lobbies, those do-gooders who feel sorrier for uneducated foreigners than for uneducated natives, plus it would have to somehow insulate from politics the setting of those visa numbers. Good luck with that.

1 comment:

Paul Botts said...

They'd also have to show some actual causation: that one of the percentage changes you just quoted is a cause of the other. I just read the entire Camarota article and it offers no evidence of such a link; it's also quite easy to think of other explanations for a recent increase in the unemployment rate among natives without high school diplomas.

Trying to "set the number of visas with an eye on how that number will affect job opportunities for unskilled natives" would therefore be basically just random guessing.