Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Economics of Hardly Finding Work - Hyphenated Americans Need Not Apply

Immigrants and the Economics of Hard Work - New York Times :

“IT is asserted both as fact and as argument: the United States needs a constant flow of immigrants to perform jobs Americans will not stoop to do.

But what if those jobs paid $50 an hour, with benefits, instead of $7 or $10 or $15?

"Of course there are jobs that few Americans will take because the wages and working conditions have been so degraded by employers," said Jared Bernstein, of the liberal Economic Policy Institute. "But there is nothing about landscaping, food processing, meat cutting or construction that would preclude someone from doing these jobs on the basis of their nativity. Nothing would keep anyone, immigrant or native born, from doing them if they paid better, if they had health care."

The most comprehensive recent study of immigrant workers comes from the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that, unlike Mr. Bernstein's, advocates stricter controls on immigration. The study, by the center's research director, Steven A. Camarota, found that immigrants are a majority of workers in only 4 of 473 job classifications — stucco masons, tailors, produce sorters and beauty salon workers. But even in those four job categories, native-born workers account for more than 40 percent of the work force.

While it might be a challenge to find an American-born cab driver in New York or parking lot attendant in Phoenix or grape cutter in the San Joaquin Valley of California, according to Mr. Camarota's study of census data from 2000-2005, 59 percent of cab drivers in the United States are native born, as are 66 percent of all valet parkers. Half of all workers in agriculture were born in this country.

"The idea that there are jobs that Americans won't do is economic gibberish," Mr. Camarota said. "All the big occupations that immigrants are in — construction, janitorial, even agriculture — are overwhelmingly done by native Americans."

But where they compete for jobs, he said, the immigrants have driven up the jobless rate for some Americans. According to his study, published in March, unemployment among the native born with less than a high school education was 14.3 percent in 2005; the figure for the immigrant population was 7.4 percent.

… George J. Borjas, a professor of economics and social policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, said he believed that the flow of migrants had significantly depressed wages for Americans in virtually all job categories and income levels. His study found that the average annual wage loss for all American male workers from 1980 to 2000 was $1,200, or 4 percent, and nearly twice that, in percentage terms, for those without a high school diploma. The impact was also disproportionately high on African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, Professor Borjas found.

"What this is, is a huge redistribution of wealth away from workers who compete with immigrants to those who employ them," he said. …”

I 'm really tired of hearing about jobs Americans won't take. I've heard that lie all my life, usually with a racial agenda.

I've seen people stand in line for days in sub-zero (farenheit) weather for housecleaning jobs at a hotel that hadn't been built. I know people who work two and three jobs with no benefits. I know people who've never had a steady job, who have, nonetheless, never stopped looking.

The jobs just aren't open to people who look like them… In Chicago, the city where I live, it's all too common to see major street repair and highway projects run through the center of the African American community with every ehtnic group except African Americans represented.

It's no accident, statistical fluke or coincidence. Without constant pressure from government the contractors are actively not looking for African Americans. They moved out of the city to make it more difficult for them to apply for work. Their unions moved their training facilities out of the city's educational system when they were required to integrate them. It was and remains easier for an illegal to enter the construction trades here than a Black citizen of the United States.

That isn't the fault of immigrants, but many of the opportunities they take advantage of are there because African Americans and others fought for them, went to jail for them, even died for them.

The problem is the ‘sucking sound’ Ross Perot warned about is only heard in isolated, segregated, desolated parts of our cities.

con·cept: The Economics of Hardly Finding Work - Hyphenated Americans Need Not Apply