The Corner

Response to Chuck DeVore on Texas Immigration

Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies (where I reign as the Great Helmsman), has penned a response to Chuck DeVore’s piece on the homepage today claiming to debunk our finding that 81 percent of the increase in jobs in Texas over the past four years went to recently arrived immigrants. I’ll include the response below the fold, but the two most important points are, first, that the gross flow of immigrants is more important for policy purposes than the net increase in the immigrant population, because the flow is what policymakers have the most control over, whereas the net increase is affected by deaths and out-migration. Second, even if DeVore prefers a net-to-net comparison, immigrants still got a disproportionate share of new jobs.

Here is Steve’s response:#more#

Response to Texas Public Policy Foundation

by Steven Camarota

Chuck DeVore of the Texas Public Policy Foundation has responded the recent Center for Immigration Studies report, “Who Benefited from Job Growth in Texas?“, both here at NRO and at the TPPF site. As co-author of the report in question, his response itself requires a response.

Our report found that most of the increase in employment in Texas from 2007 to 2011 went to newly arrived immigrants. DeVore does not dispute our numbers, he just doesn’t like our interpretation. His main criticism is that there is a lot of turnover in jobs, so you can’t look at who benefited from job growth. When thinking about this issue it is helpful to go over the figures. Here are the facts: Government data shows there were about 280,000 more people working in Texas in the second quarter of 2011 than in the same quarter of 2007. In the second quarter of 2011 there were 225,000 immigrants (legal and illegal) working in the state who indicated that they arrived in our country between the second quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2011. Thus the employment gains of newly arrived immigrants (225,000) equaled 81 percent of total employment growth (280,000). Over the same time period, the employment situation for native-born workers deteriorated significantly.

One is still free to argue that immigration so stimulates the economy that it offsets any job competition it creates. DeVore makes a half-hearted attempt to do so by stating that immigrants are more likely to start businesses. Actually, the data is clear that immigrants overall are somewhat less likely to operate their own business than the native-born. (See Table 9, p. 17 of this study) Thus one cannot argue that immigration creates jobs due to immigrants’ unusually high rates of entrepreneurship, though one could still argue there are other ways immigration benefits the economy.

DeVore’s central argument seems to be that you just can’t look at the employment numbers because there is so much churn in the labor market. But this is like arguing that a jump in unemployment from 5 to 10 percent does not matter, because workers are always gaining and losing jobs over time. Such an argument ignores the fact that it’s the end result of all that churn, those job gains and losses, that matters most. In fact, most employment statistics — such as jobs added each month or the unemployment rate — are an examination of the end result of what is always a lot of job turnover. It’s the same with Texas immigration.

Over a four-year period in Texas most of the net increase in employment went to newly arrived immigrants. As we make clear in our report, the native-born accounted for the vast majority (69 percent) of population growth from 2007 to 2011 among working-age adults (ages 16 to 65). In other words, natives made up most of the net growth in potential workers, but immigrants made up most of the growth of actual workers. As a result, the unemployment and the employment rates of natives show a marked deterioration over this time period. This last point can’t be emphasized enough.

Although Texas was one of the only states with a significant gain in employment (which may well have partly been the result, as DeVore points out, of sound tax and regulatory policies), the native-born did very poorly over this time period. Moreover, in the second quarter of 2011, the unemployment rate for natives in Texas was 8.1 percent, ranking the state 22nd out of 50 states for native employment. Even worse, the share of working-age natives holding a job (the employment rate) in Texas was 67 percent in 2011, ranking Texas 29th in the nation.

A more minor objection DeVore raises – with which he leads his NRO piece – is that the CIS report looked at net employment growth and compared it to the gross flow of new immigrants from abroad into Texas. We actually do a net-to-net comparison in our study (which DeVore acknowledges in his TPPF response, but not on NRO), and that comparison shows the same disproportionate benefit to immigrants; the number of immigrants working in Texas increased by 150,000 from the second quarter of 2007 to the second of 2011, at the same time the number of natives working increased 130,000. This means that 54 percent of overall employment growth went to immigrants, even though they accounted for only 31 percent of the increase in the working-age population. Net growth in the immigrant population is always smaller than new arrivals because each year some immigrants die and some go home. For example, new Census Bureau data show about 9 million growth in the immigrant population 2000 to 2010, even though 14 million immigrants arrived during the decade. The difference (5 million) is deaths and out-migration.

In our report we argue that the arrival of immigrants – the gross flow, as DeVore puts it – is the better yardstick than net growth in the immigrant population because from a policy perspective the flow of immigrants entering the country is the thing we have control over. Changes in the legal immigration program are policy decisions, as are changes in the level of enforcement against illegal immigration. The net increase in the immigrant population, on the other hand, is, as mentioned above, a function of deaths and out-migration, over which policy has much less influence. But if DeVore prefers the net numbers, then it is still the case that a disproportionate share of jobs went to immigrants.

One other point worth mentioning is that DeVore doubts our estimate that about half (123,000) of post-2007 immigrants who took a job were illegal aliens. He points out that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that the illegal population grew only 60,000 from January 1, 2007, to January 1, 2010. In fact, the DHS estimate is not inconsistent with our estimate. First, our estimates are for new arrivals, not net growth. As discussed above the number of new arrivals is always much larger than net growth because of deaths and out-migration, and in the case of illegals some also get legal status each year (i.e., they’re still here but they’ve left the illegal population through legalization). Net growth can easily be only half of new arrivals. Second, our figures for new illegal immigrants go to the middle of 2011, not the first day of 2010 as do the DHS estimates DeVore cites. Our results for Texas are consistent with DHS estimates.

The bottom line is that in Texas immigrants, not the native-born, have been the primary beneficiaries of job growth in the state. This is the case whether we look at the flow of newly arrived immigrants or the net growth in the immigrant population. It is also true even though the native-born accounted for the vast majority of population growth among those of working age. The existence of turnover in the labor market does not change these facts.

Other researchers have done similar analysis. See for example here and here. As one author looking at the national figures has argued, “Employers have chosen to use new immigrants over native-born workers and have continued to displace large numbers of blue-collar workers and young adults without college degrees.” We don’t even go that far in our report; we simply report the figures for immigrants and natives.

As I wrote on NRO recently, it matters a great deal that most job growth in Texas went to immigrants at the same time as the employment situation for the native-born deteriorated dramatically. Arguing that constant turnover in the labor market makes this kind of analysis invalid is obfuscation. In our view these numbers raise the question of whether it makes sense for the federal government to continue the current high level of legal immigration and for the federal and state governments to continue to tolerate illegal immigration. The reader can form his own conclusions.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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