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LSU researchers underscore negative ramifications for urban blacks from U.S. immigration policy

LatinaLista — Researchers and policy experts have long known that low-skilled undocumented immigrant workers impacted the job prospects of native low-skilled workers, notably blacks.


In the past, this competition for jobs between the two groups has contributed to what is reported as tension between blacks and Latinos. Yet, the full and specific extent of the impact on low-skilled black workers has never been fully analyzed until Louisiana State University Dr. Edward S. Shihadeh and graduate research assistant Raymond E. Barranco delved into the issue and reported their findings in the following report published in the current issue of Social Forces, the International Journal of Social Research.

While the issue is highly charged, it serves as a foundation from which to honestly examine the underreported repercussions of current immigration policy. This report illustrates that there exists not only the need for reforming immigration but also reforming how educational and vocational services are delivered to underserved communities caught in the cycle of poverty and crime.

(Editor’s note: The following is a condensed version of the full report found at Social Forces, the International Journal of Social Research. For the complete report, contact editors at Social Forces.)


Latino Employment and Black Violence: The Unintended Consequence of U.S. Immigration Policy

By Dr. Edward S. Shihadeh, Lousiana State University & Raymond E. Barranco, Louisiana State University


U.S. immigration policies after 1965 fueled a rise in the Latino population and, thus, increased the competition for low-skill jobs. We examine whether Latino immigration and Latino dominance of low-skill industries increases black urban violence.


Using city-level data for the year 2000, we find that:

1. Latino immigration is positively linked to urban black violence.
2. The link is most prevalent where blacks lost ground to Latinos in low-skill markets.
3. Not all low-skill sectors operate in unison; black violence rises only when jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and construction are in short supply.
4. Latino immigration raises black violence by first increasing black unemployment.

The Immigration Act of 1965 opened the door to non-European immigrants, particularly those of Asian and African descent. Over the years, this raised the concerns of an increasingly nativist U.S. population, leading to the highly restrictive Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 .

While apprehension rates of violators increased as a result of intensified border control, paradoxically, many Latino immigrants already in the United States felt compelled to settle here permanently. This fueled a major demographic shift in the ethnic/racial composition of the United States, one that looms potentially large for low-skill blacks.

As the number of low-skill Latinos residing in the United States grew, this invariably increased the pressure on the supply of low-skill jobs which is critical for the mobility of blacks. Because even a minor drop in the relative supply of low-skill jobs may affect the economic prospects of blacks, Latino immigration and black mobility seem inexorably linked in the United States.

The tenor of the public discourse seems mired in an unfortunate mix of controversy and silence as the respective groups feel put upon.



But low-skill Latinos have a significant advantage in the competition for low-skill jobs. They have a low reserve wage, they are viewed favorably by prospective employers, they are embedded in established networks which facilitate employment and streamline migration, and they have a strong tradition of entrepreneurship which is invoked to hire their own.

As these factors combine to make Latinos more competitive in a job market occupied traditionally by blacks, it thickens an already dense cluster of disadvantages to black social mobility.

We observe no evidence of a removal effect – that black workers are being displaced from the labor force altogether. So Latino immigration has neither a negative influence (income or removal effects) nor a positive one (bump up effect) for urban blacks.

Specifically, of all the outcomes considered Latino immigration does significantly increase the rate of black unemployment in major cities. And because of this significant effect, we then use unemployment to predict black homicide. Results reveal that black unemployment significantly increases black violence.

Moreover, upon controlling for black unemployment, the effect of Latino immigration on black violence is no longer significant. So of all the possible economic outcomes considered here, Latino immigration seems to harm the economic prospects of blacks by first increasing their unemployment, which then increases their violence.

There is a connection between U.S. immigration policy and the economic prospects of urban blacks. …by no means do we advocate restricting the flow of Latino migrants — in either direction.

…losing good quality low-skill jobs is problem, but losing bad quality jobs is not. The findings disaggregated by industry reveal that violence among blacks rises when they lose access to jobs with reasonable wages and benefits.

In contrast, black violence has no link to lesser quality jobs such as those in service. In further contrast, black violence actually declines when access is reduced to the very bottom-tier jobs, like those in waste management or retail.

In other words, while jobs that offer a living wage can reduce problems such as lethal violence, jobs at the other extreme, those with very low pay, low hours and no benefits, actually increase violence.

We find that when blacks are employed in education, health and social services, black violence goes down. But as yet, we see little evidence that the Latino dominance in low-skill jobs is bumping blacks into education, health and social services (or any other sector, for that matter).

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  • Eddie
    April 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I have to wonder about the validity of this research when all other research shows that immigration has NO impact (and in many instances, positively impacts) native workers.
    In addition, I wonder how much this research controlled for the effects of social disinventment in education in black communities and the concomitant explosion of black incarceration rates that have had WAY more negative impacts on black employment (quite a few states today spend more in corrections than they do in education).
    Could it be, then that “black violence,” is more about scapegoating immigrant groups than an actual cause and effect vis-a-vis immigration?

  • cookie
    April 17, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    This isn’t about immigrants it is about illegal aliens and yes they are replacing poor black workers on jobs. They are also replacing poor whites also. That is one of the reasons we have legal immigration so that Americans don’t get displaced on these blue collar jobs or wages get depressed by illegal aliens who work for less.

  • shane walsh
    April 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Eddie, could you cite this “all other research”? Are you simply saying that Black people are out to destroy themselves?, which is WAY outrageous. How does scholarly research “scapegoat” anybody? This is a problem that i have run into while being a pro immigration reform Black American, being stereotyping by those I want to support, this is a MAJOR turnoff. The undocumented crowd has many of its own skeletons to deal with, like any other group of people in this country.
    before you dismiss this work, maybe you need to check your own prejudices first. I can see that you have a problem with black folks by the way that you are absolving the undocumented of having any effect on the Black community.
    I have felt that there is some truth in this for a while now, i am happy to see a project that does not leave the undocumented community smelling like roses but is an un slanted analysis. This is one issue that can only be helped through intercultural exchange led by national community leaders, no local yahoos with singular goals or wacko religious types. I would like to see this before a major violent incident happens between these groups occurs. As the two central minority groups as far as national issues are concerned, we need to figure out a way to work together, not fight each other or to perpetuate stereotype coined by whites on both sides of the political spectrum.

  • Texan123
    April 19, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    It is easy to notice that Latino business owners seldom hire non-hispanics, especially blacks.
    When a business owned by white owners do this it is called discrimination.

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