Update about immigration: a hot issue in 2016, forgotten in 2017

Summary: Immigration was a major issue of the 2016 election, to the discomfort of America’s ruling elites. Afterwards it was displaced by issues more important to them, such as stripping healthcare from millions and cutting taxes for the rich. It exists today in the media mostly in emotional “human interest” stories about “dreamers” (such labels are flags warning of propaganda at work). Meanwhile immigration continues to reshape America’s destiny. Like most public policy issues these days, it is shrouded in lies. Here are some facts, for those that still like such things.

Immigration

“About 57 out of every 100 jobs in Silicon Valley requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher are filled by someone who wasn’t born in the U.S., according to Guardino {Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group}.
— “California business leaders call on Congress to pass Dreamer legislation” in the Mercury News, 21 November 2017.

“In 2010, the foreign born accounted for 16 percent of all civilians employed in health care occupations in the United States. …More than one-quarter of physicians and surgeons (27%) were foreign born…”
— “Foreign-Born Health Care Workers in the United States” by Kristen McCabe at the Migration Information Service.

Articles about the need for immigrants — the dreaded skills shortages — appear to assume that skilled workers fall from the sky. They seldom explain why America’s massive university system cannot produce sufficient numbers of people with the necessary skills. The extreme example of this is the shortage of doctors, from which only massive immigration can save us! See some classic examples of this genre at HuffPuff and Forbes. It is a bogus story, ignoring the long lines of qualified Americans seeking admission to medical schools — whose numbers are kept too small, boosting doctors’ incomes.

Let’s look at the numbers of foreign-born workers, from the Federal Reserve’s invaluable FRED system. As usual with major public policy questions, high quality data becomes available only after the problem becomes visible (just like auto accidents, society’s problems often occur in our blind spots).

What percent of America’s population is foreign-born?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census conduct a monthly survey of people living in America, the Current Population Survey, focusing on employment. It has large error bars for subpopulations such as foreign born — which are also not seasonally adjusted. Hence the erratic course of the graph. The bottom line: the number of foreign-born Americans has risen from roughly 15% to 16% over the past decade. Slow and steady change reshapes a nation.

Foreign-born as a percent of America's Population

What percent of America’s workers is foreign-born?

The percent of America’s workers increased over the past decade from roughly 16.5% to 17.8%.

Percent of American workers who are foreign born

The big picture

See the more graphs from the Census. Using data from US Census reports, the Center for Immigration Studies reveals some powerful trends . See their report for sources and methodology.

Immigrants as fraction of US population

What has Trump done?

Trump’s Administration has moved slowly to reduce the number of highly-educated people brought here by corporations to reduce wages. Journalists cover this in the most slanted manner possible. For example: “Trump’s H-1B Reform Is to Make Life Hell for Immigrants and Companies” by Joshua Brustein at Bloomberg, 6 November 2017 — “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is challenging an unusually large number of H-1B applications.”

Left or Right, all the power centers in America hate populism.

For More Information

This excellent Pew report says that roughly 11 million of the 40 million immigrants are illegals (also see this larger report). For a detailed analysis of these matters see this excellent (as usual) report by the Congressional Research Service: “U.S. Immigration Policy: Chart Book of Key Trends” by William A. Kandel (December 2014). Here are links to government studies about immigration and its effects.

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4 thoughts on “Update about immigration: a hot issue in 2016, forgotten in 2017

  1. It’s interesting to me that when people like Donald Trump talk about immigrants, they mostly refer to people who sneak across the border to take jobs washing dishes or picking lettuce, as if those are the kinds of jobs Americans should be fighting over. But what about those high-paying Silicon Valley jobs? If he has talked about those sorts of immigrants, I missed it. But hey, I guess we can’t have Americans demanding those kinds of jobs, because that might make things too uncomfortable for the ruling class.

    1. PAT,

      (1) “as if those are the kinds of jobs Americans should be fighting over.”

      Yes, we should care about the jobs on the lower rungs of the ladder. Not everybody can get a B.A., and those people should not have their wages eroded to dirt-poor levels by immigrants.

      (2) “If he has talked about those sorts of immigrants, I missed it.”

      What are you reading? If you are waiting for favorable stories about Trump’s actions from the major media, you are kidding yourself. In fact his Administration has moved to reduce the number of highly-educated people brought here by corporations to reduce wages. Journalists cover this in the most slanted manner possible: “Trump’s H-1B Reform Is to Make Life Hell for Immigrants and Companies” by Joshua Brustein at Bloomberg, 6 November 2017 — “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is challenging an unusually large number of H-1B applications.”

      Lots of those news stories printed in the past few months.

      Left or Right, all the power centers in America hate populism.

  2. It’s so typical that the one thing Trump does that might actually benefit the vast majority of Americans is the one most denounced by the chattering classes.

  3. Maybe the blathering class has forgotten about immigration, but every one of us who has friends or family who are dealing with INS have not forgotten. As for the dishwashers and lettuce pickers, you don’t see a lot of new ones coming in to the country. You’ll see a lot of fellows who are leading lives of quiet desperation for the last 20 or so years, despite well-established ties to loved ones in this country.

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