Drumming Up Evidence On Immigration`s Income Impact
[Previously by “An
Cleaning up after the Great
Amnesty/Immigration Surge Battle: one unedifying
Kevin Drum, the
liberal Washington Monthly blogger, [send
him mail] joining forces with the worst
corporate employers in the America.
denounced Slate blogger
Mickey Kaus for "trying on his new role as
champion of the common man” by trying to “convince
gullible liberals that the plight of the working poor
chicken pluckers) is due to immigration from Mexico.” [See
Plucking The Pluckers] He accused Kaus of using
outdated, inaccurate material to support the claim.
Here`s a reality check.
Models that show minimal wage losses from unskilled
immigration are theoretical. The empirical data is
vastly different and shows huge losses from immigration.
Take the work of Giovanni Peri ("Immigrants`
Complementarieties and Native Wages”, [PDF]).
based on theory, that immigration has raised wages
for even unskilled workers. However, his actual data
(Figure 3) shows a 17.6% reduction in wages for
unskilled workers in California and a 15.1% reduction
Of course, the California data seriously understates the
real reduction, because Peri uses a national cost of
living index rather than a Californian one. Allowing for
California`s much higher cost of living, the real wage
reduction is much greater.
Can Peri explain any of this? No. Does he try? No.
The Chain Never Stops,
by Eric Schlosser (Mother Jones, July/August
"Thirty years ago,
meatpacking was one of the highest-paid industrial jobs
in the United States, with one of the lowest turnover
rates. In the decades that followed the
1906 publication of
The Jungle, labor unions had slowly gained power
in the industry, winning their members good benefits,
decent working conditions, and a voice in the workplace.
Meatpacking jobs were dangerous and unpleasant, but
provided enough income for a solid, middle-class life.
There were sometimes waiting lists for these jobs. And
then, starting in the early 1960s, a company called Iowa
Beef Packers (IBP) began to revolutionize the industry,
opening plants in rural areas far from union
strongholds, recruiting immigrant workers from Mexico,
introducing a new division of labor that eliminated the
need for skilled butchers, and ruthlessly battling
unions. By the late 1970s, meatpacking companies that
wanted to compete with
IBP had to adopt its business methods—or go out of
business. Wages in the meatpacking industry soon fell by
as much as 50 percent. Today
meatpacking is one of the nation`s
lowest-paid industrial jobs, with one of the highest
turnover rates. The typical plant now hires an entirely
new workforce every year or so. There are no waiting
lists at these slaughterhouses today. Staff shortages
have become an industry-wide problem, making the work
even more dangerous."
Lower Wages For American Workers, (Federation of
American Immigration Reform website, updated 1/05)
"The effect of
immigration on those
low-skilled Americans is profound, and the
government knows it: `Undoubtedly access to lower-wage
foreign workers has a depressing effect [on wages],`
says former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Research
suggests that between 40 and 50 percent of wage-loss
among low-skilled Americans is due to the immigration of
low-skilled workers. Some
native workers lose not just wages but their jobs
through immigrant competition. An estimated 1,880,000
American workers are
displaced from their jobs every year by immigration;
the cost for providing
welfare and assistance to these Americans is over
$15 billion a year."
Radical groups taking control of immigrant movement,
by Lou Dobbs (CNN, 5-1-2006)
"In fact, a
meat-packing job paid $19 an hour in 1980, but today
that same job pays closer to $9 an hour, according to
the Labor Department. That`s entirely consistent with
what we`ve been reporting—that
illegal aliens depress wages for U.S. workers by as
much as $200 billion a year in addition to placing a
tremendous burden on hospitals, schools and other social
Latinos Surge In Midwest,
Migration News, Vol. 3 No. 3, July 1996)
fell sharply after peaking in 1980. In Iowa, the average
hourly earnings of meatpackers in 1981 was $11.33, 50
cents less than the US average $11.83.
Wallace Huffman of Iowa State University noted that
real meatpacking earnings fluctuated between 1963 and
1988, but were lower in 1988 than in 1963."
Choosing Sides on Immigration, by Froma Harrop (RealClearPolitics.com,
"And it`s true
that recent "victories" in unionizing low-skilled
workers have produced paltry gains. For example, the
Service Employees International Union managed to
janitors in Los Angeles, but Briggs notes, "at wages
way below what they were back in the 1970s." The strange
part is that Los Angeles` janitors were highly unionized
(and mostly African-American) until the `70s, when a
surge in illegal immigration destroyed their
The union last year
organized janitors in Houston. For all these efforts,
this largely Hispanic workforce saw its pay rise from a
pitiful $5.25 an hour to a pathetic $6.25 — which is
lower than the minimum wage in 21 states and the
District of Columbia. Wages in the contract`s later
years will barely exceed the new federal minimum."
Immigration Policy and Low Wage Workers: The
Influence of American Unionism (pdf), by Vernon
M. Briggs, Jr. (Cornell University; Briggs Public
enactment of the first ceilings on immigration in U.S.
history, the economic gains to workers were found to be
immediate. Indeed, labor historian
Joseph Rayback called the
Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924 "the most
significant pieces of
"labor" legislation enacted during the post-World
War I era.” Mills and Montgomery likewise observed "from
the international viewpoint the morality of the postwar
immigration policy of the United States may be
questioned, but of its economic effect in raising real
earnings there can be little question.” Lebergott, who
attributed this tripling of real wages for urban workers
that occurred in the 1920s to the substantial
immigration reductions that occurred in this period,
observed that "political changes in the supply of labor
can be more effective in determining wages than even
explicit attempts to fix wages.” What more powerful
statement can be made about the significance of the
adoption of reasonable immigration polices to the
enhancement of worker welfare in the united States?"
Dropping Out Immigrant Entry and Native Exit From
the Labor Market, 2000-2005,
By Andrew Sum,
Paul Harrington, and Ishwar Khatiwada (Center for
Immigration Studies, September 2006). This is a
paper on how immigration is driving American workers
from the labor force.
The Impact of New Immigrants on Young Native-Born
Workers, 2000-2005. This is another paper on the
same subject as #7.
Not very likely.
How about wages
that go down and down down? Doesn`t that make a lot