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To See What Is in Front of One’s Nose Needs a Constant Struggle



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I missed this Monday: The NYT ran contradictory editorials, one atop the other. The one on immigration was the usual malarkey, “state of fear,” “xenophobes,” “immigration zealots,” “frighteningly prone to abuse,” “sensible reforms that allow immigrants to enter legally,” blah, blah, blah. But right under it was an editorial decrying the plight of teen workers, “who were being driven from the labor market in record numbers long before the financial meltdown and who now risk being permanently marginalized both socially and economically.” The news peg was a report by Andrew Sum, a labor economist at Northeastern University — the same Andrew Sum who co-authored a paper for me finding that “that the arrival of new immigrants (legal and illegal) in a state results in a decline in employment among young native-born workers in that state.” Among the specific findings:

  • Between 2000 and 2005, the number of young (16 to 34) native-born men who were employed declined by 1.7 million; at the same time, the number of new male immigrant workers increased by 1.9 million.
  • Multivariate statistical analyses show that the probability of teens and young adults (20-24) being employed was negatively affected by the number of new immigrant workers (legal and illegal) in their state.
  • The negative impacts tended to be larger for younger workers, for in-school youth compared to out-of-school youth, and for native-born black and Hispanic males compared to their white counterparts.
  • It appears that employers are substituting new immigrant workers for young native-born workers. The estimated sizes of these displacement effects were frequently quite large.

I would initially attribute the Times’ not even mentioning the role of immigration in the second piece to their editorialists’ utter cluelessness (or at least a lack of curiosity due to a fear of cognitive dissonance), until I looked at the new Sum report (pdf here) and found that it specifically attributes part of the drop in teen employment to “the increased competition that male teens face from new immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants.” But to acknowledge that might detract from the Times’ call for “programs that provided subsidized jobs for young people in both the public and private sector.”



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