National Data | Inconvenient Truth re U.K.'s Immigrants

A TV newsman defends his racially explicit analysis of the economic impact of immigration:

"Most people will be pleased that somebody is prepared to look at the facts. Immigration is a major development of our time. It is a healthy thing to know where it benefits and where it hinders our society."

Question: Was it Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly, or Sean Hannity?

Answer: None of the above.

Jon Snow is anchorman on Dispatches—a program broadcast on the U.K.'s Channel 4.

Snow's TV documentary, entitled "Immigrants: The Inconvenient Truth," reveals which immigrant communities are a "debit" and a "credit" on "Britain's Balance sheet." [MPs fear C4 documentary on the cost of immigrants will fuel race hatred By Jonathan Oliver, Daily Mail, (UK) September 30th 2007]

In making his case against certain immigrant groups Snow did not reach out to a Heritage Foundation-type research organization. The data tables cited in the documentary  were drawn up for Channel 4 by a left-leaning think tank: the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The IPPR tables reveal that Somalis are the dependency "leaders", with almost 40 percent receiving means-tested public income support. (By contrast, only 4 percent of U.K. natives receive such support.) [Institute for Public Policy Research, Britain's Immigrants: An Economic Profile, September 2007 PDF]

Only 19 percent of working age Somalis are employed. Ten percent of this group are unemployed (i.e., looking for work) while a whopping 71 percent are out of the labor force entirely (i.e., not even looking.) [Table 1.] By contrast, 78% of UK natives are employed;4% unemployed; 18% not in the labor force.

At the other extreme more than 85 percent of working age immigrants from Australia, France, Canada, and Poland are employed and less than 13 percent are not in the labor force.

The IPPR report claims that many Somalis came to the U.K. as refugees with little English, making it difficult to find work.

Our question: how do they know work is hard to find when so many aren't even looking?

Somali immigrants also top the IPPR housing table—with 80 percent living in subsidized public housing. The next highest group is Turkish immigrants, at 49 percent. Immigrants from Australia, France, and the U.S. are the least likely to be in public housing—at 5 percent. Seventeen percent of U.K. natives live in public housing.

We've done  similar rankings for immigrant groups in this country—and a comparison is instructive. [Table 2.]

Here we rank immigrant groups on the percent that receive means-tested public benefits:

In the U.K.:  

  • Somalia (39% dependency; 0.14 % of U.K. population)

 

  • Turkey (21.0 percent; 0.12 percent)

 

 

 

  • Iran (10.0 percent; 0.10 percent)

In the U.S.:

 

  • Mexico (43 percent; 3.71 percent)

 

  • Russia (40 percent; 0.21 percent)

 

 

Our immigrants are significantly more dependent and—thanks to the Mexicans—constitute a larger share of our population than their counterparts in the U.K. In fact, most U.K. immigrant groups have lower dependency rates than U.K. natives. [Table 2.] Of the groups with higher dependency rates, many are disproportionately refugees (e.g., the Somalis and Turkish-born) or are naturalized citizens (e.g., the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.) 

Implication: The British are doing a better job of vetting public charges out of their immigrant influx than we are. (They get fewer illegals, because the English Channel is wider and deeper than the Rio Grande.)

A caveat is in order. Medicaid is the most expensive and widely received means tested benefit available to U.S. immigrants. The U.K. has nothing like it.

The U.K.'s system of universal health care is available, well, universally—to immigrant and native, rich and poor. Had IPPR counted national health care as a welfare benefit, the dependency gap between U.K. and U.S. immigrants would narrow, or even reverse. The economic burden of U.K. immigration would appear even larger than portrayed in the IPPR report.

As Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman famously said: "It's just obvious you can't have free immigration and a welfare state".

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.