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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Economy > Guest Voz: Economist discovers immigrants’ benefits to the nation outweigh the costs

Guest Voz: Economist discovers immigrants’ benefits to the nation outweigh the costs

By Gerald D. Jaynes
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LatinaLista — Professor Gerald Jaynes is a professor of economics and African American Studies at Yale University. With an interest in immigration and its effects on race and ethnic relations and the economy, Dr. Jaynes has conducted numerous studies on the topic and has been called to testify on his findings before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law in the U.S. House of Representatives.
During a recent telephone press conference, Dr. Jaynes admitted to changing his opinion about the impact of immigrant labor on African American workers after conducting a study analyzing impact data. What he discovered caught him by surprise and in answer to a special request from Latina Lista, Dr. Jaynes has agreed to share what his study uncovered and why the evidence was compelling enough for him to change his mind.

My views toward immigration stem from basic beliefs in equality, opportunity, and justice. This disposition is deeply rooted as a consequence of my childhood — growing up marginalized and African American.
An experience, especially relevant to my views on immigration, occurred at age ten. During the late 1950s, the two or three boys of color attending my small-town Midwestern school developed a friendship with Hector, a tall bronze skinned son of Mexican migrant farm workers, who, for a couple of years, would show up at school during late August only to abruptly disappear after several weeks.
Hector provided me my first lessons in relative poverty. Decades later, driving through suburban Washington, D.C. during the mid-1990s, I experienced a pang of ambivalence while observing a construction site where work crews composed of Latino men and white supervisors were building dozens of new houses.
I could not help but think that these men, obviously Latino immigrants, were filling jobs that could have gone to the unemployed African Americans on the streets of D.C., I also remembered Hector. My conflicted emotions about immigration are typical of most African Americans.

Historically, and for the past two decades, African Americans have viewed both immigration and immigrants more favorably than have other Americans.
Despite the news media devoting most of its coverage of African Americans’ views on immigration to competition between blacks and Latinos, and despite African Americans being more likely than other groups to believe immigrants take jobs from the native-born, African Americans remain more likely to tell pollsters that immigration should continue at current or even higher levels during recent years.
African Americans’ beliefs that immigrants take their jobs are grounded in their experiences. Although the best statistical studies of the effects of immigration on the wages and employment of the native-born conclude such effects are relatively small, and in any event secondary to other causes of low wages and unemployment, the brunt of the effects are concentrated in specific industries and geographic locations where less educated African American and native Latino workers predominate.
These conditions provide an abundance of anecdotal evidence suggesting immigrants “take over” jobs. Given these local observations and the common sense of freshman level supply and demand reasoning, some African American local leaders join the forces calling for reduced immigration.
However, observation of local conditions does not tell the whole national story.
Being a trained economist, I had the capability to conduct my own research before my opinion hardened. After my Washington D.C. experience, convinced that immigration probably was a major factor in African American job losses, a colleague and I launched a large-scale statistical analysis to measure immigration’s effects on wages and employment of natives nationwide.
To our surprise, no matter how we approached the data, our results showed either no effects or very modest effects and only on the least educated black men. Intellectual honesty required that we report data as it was uncovered, and my opinion about the effects of immigration on African American employment and wages changed.
We can acknowledge that immigration probably hurts the employment and wages of some less educated citizens and still conclude immigration is a net benefit for the United States. The evidence shows that from an economic standpoint, immigration’s broader benefits to the nation outweigh its costs.
Immigration does impose a modest negative cost on the employment prospects of less educated native born workers, but this cost is swamped by a constellation of other factors diminishing their economic status.
A significant minority of our most disadvantaged young people persist in low educational achievement, dropping out of high school and engaging in such negative behaviors as criminal activity. Those of us committed to improving the welfare of disadvantaged people must reinvigorate our efforts to combat these more consequential problems.

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Comment(18)

  • Liquidmicro
    April 26, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    If you actually read his report, it states the same things we here from every other economist. He cites Borjas, and has came to the same conclusion as Borjas. In fact, his testimony you cite is basically Borjas’ report with a new headline.
    Note he states :Documented immigrant workers must be guaranteed reasonable paths to citizenship and not that “Undocumented Immigrants” need a path. This report is mostly based on the benefits of “Legal Immigration” (skilled) and not on that of “Illegal Immigration” (low/un-skilled). The only time he brings in Illegal Immigrants is in the fact that the Legal’s more then make up for the Illegal’s, thus offsetting their (Illegal’s) costs and showing a net benefit.
    This is where Pro-Advocates get the idea that Illegal Immigrants are not a burden, but where they fail is in the fact that if Illegal’s where not in the picture, the net benefit of Legal Immigrants (skilled) would be even greater.

  • Horace
    April 26, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    lm, it’s not that Marisa didn’t read or evalute this report but, like many advocates, she distorts the facts to make her case. The sad fact is that the truth is inconvenient to the advocate’s cause and they are not above violating ethical standards to get their way. In truth, there is no report that actually supports that uneducated illegal alien poor add net value to our economy when given amnesty and are permitted the privileges of all the social services and tax benefits of becoming a citizen. Employers get cheap labor and the citizens pay the penalty.

  • Marisa Treviño
    April 27, 2009 at 8:47 am

    “The sad fact is that the truth is inconvenient to the advocate’s cause and they are not above violating ethical standards to get their way.” — Back at ya!

  • John
    April 27, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    its simple math and to see where this nonsense is heading, just look at the problems in california, a state with the lowest bond rating and one of the poorest per pupil spending of any state. this study obviously doesn’t take into consideration the cost of illegal immigration. i don’t know if there is a study that can accurately quantify the costs but surely the benefits of illegal aliens paying income & ssi taxes cannot possibly outweigh the costs associated with educating illegal alien children, incarcerating illegal alien criminals, and the burden placed on social services.
    we’re the state that’s completely inundated with illegal aliens and if this is what you call “net” benefits… with “net” benefits like these…
    oh and look….here comes swine flu. nice!

  • Evelyn
    April 27, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Horace your lies, BS, and spin dont work anymore all they do is expose you. Try something worth responding to. Lets get a debate going like we used to. Remember?
    Hearing the same regurgitated BS is down right boring.ZZZzzzzzzzzz

  • Evelyn
    April 27, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Spin works OK on your Blog Liquid, not here!
    It’s funny you would think people would still fall for spin.
    Facts are what they are, not what you want to manipulate them into being!

  • Liquidmicro
    April 27, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Oh Evelyn, nothing was spun. Obviously you can not comprehend the report, nor have you actually read it. The facts are clearly outlined in the report, I posted them above. I see you still can not refute anything I say and rather attack me as usual, back from vacation and you have not changed one bit. I’m still waiting for your responses to my other questions prior to you going south, but we both know you have no answers.

  • Evelyn
    April 28, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Economy of California
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    California Legislative Analyst’s Office
    According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, if California were an independent state, it would have had the eighth largest economy in the world in 2004
    The rankings are:
    United States
    Japan
    Germany
    P R China
    United Kingdom
    France
    Italy
    Spain
    Canada
    (2005 data
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_California
    How would one explain the Economy doing so well in California in 2004.
    There were even more out of status immigrants then.
    Out of status Immigrants peeked in 2000. It has spiraled sense then.
    The U.S. as a whole is doing bad because of Bush administration.
    Quit scapegoating immigrants.
    Quit acting like cowards. Quit beating around the bush. Aren’t any of you man enough to come out and say what you really feel?
    You dont want Mexicans here because you dont like them and one of these days whites will be the minority.
    You dont like Obama because a Black man shouldent be in the White House! There I said it for you …..bunch of cowards!

  • Karen
    April 28, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    John:
    California had a 17 billion dollar surplus until the summer of 2001 when Enron and Dubya initiated their fake energy crisis and jacked up the price of California’s energy. Davis was going to sue to recover the money, so the energy industry funded a bogus recall election and gave us Arnold. Once in office, he dropped the lawsuit and we have been in debt ever since. The media want this information to fall into the memory hole, but some of us still remember the truth. Arnold is a corporate tool who does nothing but borrow money and cut education spending. He’s incompetent, but the Hollywood liberals tolerate him as long as he advocates THEIR issues such as stem cell funding, the environment and gay rights. They don’t pay attention to the damage he does to education and healthcare.
    Republicans hate the fact that this state is liberal and ethnically diverse, so they do whatever they can to wreck the budget process. Every year when the budget is late because of Republicans, the debt and deficit increase by hundreds of millions of dollars. Imagine if you made a credit card payment 6 months late? YOur debt would grow larger everyday. Well that’s what the Republicans do in California. They want this state to be wrecked. Until people get it through their heads that there is no such thing as a moderate Republican, or a fiscally responsible Republican, this problem won’t change. I’m glad Senator Arlen Specter dumped that incompetent, corrupt party. I hope it’s another nail in their coffin.
    Your illegal imigrant rant does not take into account the billions of dollars their labor makes for the state, especially in the field of agriculture, which is a 200+ billion dollar industry that can’t move away. Nobody ever complains about how their labor makes our food affordable.
    Immigration is an issue, but it not the source of all of the problems in this state. If it were, they would have been deported by now.
    Once a Democrat replaces hurricane Arnold, and we eliminate the 2/3 rule to pass a budget, things will improve.

  • MaryElizabeth
    April 29, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Oh Micro, you are always saying that everyone else has a comprehension problem. Its BS…and Evelyn has hit the bullseye. Spin…Spin…Spin…and its really boreing! Ask him about John Adams. He likes to put a spin on that. lol

  • Liquidmicro
    April 29, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Neither of the two of you, Evelyn or Mary, have shown that my comment of the report is incorrect. Both have instead attempted to attack me. Mary I suggest you go back to the discussion we had on Adam Smith and note your ignorance. Re-read all my comments about Adam Smith, you might then realize I do know what I am talking about. Neither of you are objective in your views, you only spout your bias information. Marisa hasn’t even denied my comment on Jaynes testimony. Both of you fail to realize that there is a difference between being here as an “Immigrant” and being here as a Deportable Alien. You must comprehend the words used before you can make accusations.
    As for California, the Housing Bubble blew up out here big time, I would like to see you explain why California is now $42 Billion in debt, that’s today and for the past few years, since California has been living on bonds. Also note, California Counties are cutting services to “Illegal Immigrants” in order to save money, funny that that’s where they start, isn’t it?

  • Evelyn
    April 29, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Karen & Mary Elizabeth
    HIGH FIVE!!

  • Horace
    April 29, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    “Nobody ever complains about how their labor makes our food affordable.”
    Yeah, California the land of exploited poor. This is a red herring because we don’t need most of this labor, as most of he work could be automated. The availability of cheap laborers who work like mules in the fields prevents innovation in agriculture. Other nations are far more automated than ours. Legalize and organize these people into unions and labor costs will triple. Farmers will demand machines like those that pick oranges in Florida, doing away with tens of thousands of agricultural jobs.
    People like Karen actually applaud screwing illegal aliens of a fair wage just for he opportunity to buy a cheap avocado. Just how far would you go to maintain your cheap supply of beans, Karen?

  • Liquidmicro
    April 29, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Karen, please provide a link to your information, I find it very inaccurate.
    California Politics, Housing, Welfare, Budget
    Budget. California had an $8 billion surplus in 1999-2000, but faced a $24 billion deficit in 2002-03, representing 24 percent of the $99 billion budget. The state is required to plan for a balanced budget; most of the deficit for 2002-03 was erased with one-time adjustments and borrowing. About two-thirds of the state budget is spent on programs required by voter-approved initiatives, federal mandates and constitutional requirements for schools, health care, courts, prisons, public employee pensions and state government operations.

  • MaryElizabeth
    April 29, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    HIGH FIVE to Evelyn and Karen…boy do I wish you all lived around me. We could all go out and celebrate after the Immigration Reform Bill passes. Micro, is delusional, he still thinks he has a John Adams way of thinking. He actually is in denial that the original book John Adams had written was tweaked by an invader and he believes in a revised version of it. Talk about a spin of BS that he has convinced himself to believe.Now this is material for some serious. Zzzzzzs…..lol.

  • Evelyn
    April 29, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Pray tell, do show your ignorance more often when addressing others Horace. Make it reek of racism like you did when addressing Karen.
    Especially now that the hearings on CIR start in Washington.
    We need for every American to be exposed to what is behind all the hate.

  • Liquidmicro
    May 2, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Oh Mary, you are attempting to make John Adams out to be some sort of Libertarian based on Jason Riley and his views. I suggest you go back and re-read the discussion you and I had on John Adams, this time comprehend what I said and understand the examples I gave. The only one who is inept is you.
    Neither you nor Evelyn have yet to refute my original comment in this thread. Prove that Jaynes condones “Illegal Immigrants” and show where he states “Illegal Immigrants” should be granted amnesty or that they somehow contribute more than they take.
    Jaynes testimony is actually better at explaining my sides statements of “we are not against “Legal” immigrants as they do contribute due to having skills, we are against “Illegal” immigrants simply because they contribute nothing and take more than they contribute since they are skill less”.

  • MaryElizabeth
    May 4, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Micro, I am not suggesting anything other than the basis of Adam Smith. He believed in let the “Free Market” do its thing. Your ideas on Immigration are a contridiction of Adam Smiths beliefs. You are not anything like Adam Smith when it comes to your ideas. Although you are a wannabee…you are way off. Adam Smith did not believe in Slavery nor would he believe that you should deport these workers. He did not believe in Borders….End of Story.

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