How Many Times Does Bloomberg's "Immigrant Entrepreneurs" Myth Have To Be Exploded?

Those of us who write commentary for a living are accustomed to looking up or quick-checking our facts and figures against the wealth of databases now available on the Internet.

Meanwhile, politicians and TV talking heads just go on pulling numbers and "facts" out of their bottom holes.

So here is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg telling us that: "People don’t come here to put up their feet and collect welfare."  And then: "An immigrant is more likely to start a small business than a non-immigrant."

I brought up the Center for Immigration Studies website and in less than 90 seconds had detailed, data-based refutations of both Bloomberg's assertions.

To the first, see Table 12 here:

Table 12 indicates that, even after the 1996 welfare reforms, which curtailed eligibility for some immigrants, immigrant households’ use of the welfare system remains higher than that of natives for most programs. Use of cash tends to be quite similar for immigrant and native households. Thus if by “welfare” one only means cash assistance programs, then immigrant use is roughly the same as that of natives. Of course, there is the question of whether native use of welfare is the proper yardstick by which to measure immigrants. If immigration is supposed to be a benefit, our admission criteria should, with the exception of refugees, select only those immigrants who are self‑sufficient.

It's not hapless, haven't-found-my-feet-yet refugees inflating the welfare numbers, either:

Table 12 shows that immigrants from some countries have lower welfare use rates than natives while those from other countries have much higher rates than natives. Mexican and Dominican households have welfare use rates that are much higher than natives — even higher than for refugee-sending countries like Russia and Cuba. In fact, if one excludes the primary refugee-sending countries, as shown in the bottom portion of Table 12, the share of immigrant households using a welfare program remains virtually unchanged at 36 percent. Refugees are simply not a large enough share of the foreign-born, nor are their rates high enough, to explain the level of welfare use by immigrant households. Or put a different way, the relatively large share of immigrant households using welfare is not caused by refugees.

To Bloomberg's second assertion, see table 13 here, with the attached conclusion that:

While immigrants overall are not more entrepreneurial than natives, immigrants from some countries and regions are, including Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East. But overall entrepreneurship is neither a lacking nor a distinguishing characteristic of the nation’s immigrants, at least as measured by self employment. If one removed immigrants from the data, the overall rate of self‑employment in the United States would be about the same.

Or on the particular issue of entrepreneurial immigrants applying for patents, you could refer to pp. 208-209 of that tremendous bestseller We Are Doomed:


Similarly with a Duke University study, "America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs" (2007), which counted up the patent applications filed by immigrant non-citizens in the years 1998-2006, breaking them out by the applicant's country of citizenship.  The top twenty contributing countries filed over 60,000 applications altogether.

That sure is an impressive number, and immigration enthusiasts will chortle over it as evidence for the revitalizing power of immigration.  Perhaps it is; but what are those top twenty countries?  Since you ask, they are, in order:  China (including Taiwan), India, Canada, U.K., Germany, France, Russia, Korea, Japan, Australia, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Swizerland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ireland, Greece, Iran.

I dunno, there's something about that list that's hard to square with the realities of recent mass immigration.  Can't quite put my finger on it ...

It makes you weary at last.  We ─ places like ─ toil away at analysis, trying to figure out what's going on.  The CIS people likewise.  I know those guys: they have some serious, capable number-crunchers, working from publicly available databases (like this one and this one).  We put out true facts, with supporting numbers, and they disappear like stones dropped into a well.

Meanwhile some crackpot pol like Bloomberg can go on TV and tell whopping great porkies*, and everyone jumps up and says: "Wow, that's great!  Let's do what he says!"

Sometimes it's hard to keep despair at bay.  Is the truth really great?  Will it really prevail?  Doesn't look that way much.


*porky = pork pie = lie (Cockney rhyming slang)