Immigrants of All Strides and Productivity
It’s interesting that two days ago, an ex-coworker I had friended here on Facebook went on a rant about immigrants even though the subject had less than zero to do with immigrants or tangential policy. She blamed every back sore and toe stub she’s ever had on immigrants – the usual Klan talk, but she was spitting it out to a first-generation white-skinned Hispanic immigrant who understands the English language exponentially better than the native-born American with lower than median intelligence ever will.
In conversation about that with my wife, I explained to her the economic mechanics of how even immigrants who don’t learn the native language are incredibly vital to economic growth and productivity and that language does bring about barriers but there are many situations where language barriers can be broken down even without the multitude of immigrants learning the local language. It’s healthy to encourage immigrants to assimilate in that manner, but it’s less healthy to turn away immigrants because of it. All that would lead to is less wealth in the aggregate due to the loss of potential productivity.
My mother never did learn the language – nor did her grandmother. My aunt and I did, largely because we entered the education system (My aunt learned English in high school and is now one of the top bankers at BoA.) People like my mother and grandmother were more willing to move to the US and live in a part of New York City which included a large Hispanic population which aided their quasi-assimilation into the US (minus linguistic assimilation); they’d rather live the potentially richer life here because just living in the US allows for more real income than is possible for people of with the same skill sets in our country of origin (Dominican Republic). Their nominal income may be lower, but their real income is far superior. Their employer was the one who learned enough of the Spanish language to employ hundreds of Hispanic immigrants in an inner city tie factory just south of the garment district at a lower cost than he would have been able to hiring only native-born Americans. His pay was more than enough to afford an apartment in parts of the Bronx. It’s true that the lack of rent control would have made this impossible, but that’s the give-and-take the city allowed for the sake of increased productivity through the lower income immigrant population.
if you like your fancy ties, my mother would have produced yours at a lower cost, thus a lower price. That lower price left change in your pocket, probably enough to buy a Twinkie or a new shirt. That lower price allowed for higher real buying power despite your nominal income remaining the same. Or perhaps your nominal income is higher because your business served my mom a cup of tamarindo juice and papas rellenas, new food items on the menu due to the increased Hispanic immigration in your part of town.
The difference between my documented immigration – and that of my parents – and undocumented immigrants is that we were lucky to get in whereas quotas haven’t kept in line with demand for immigrant labor in the US and the supply of it. This is basic economics, and common sense. The fact of the matter is that even immigrants of low skill sets add fuel to economic growth. Immigrants from diverse backgrounds and greater skill sets do provide greater economic growth but it’s not limited to just those with greater skill sets. The children of immigrants, given the opportunity, will end up trying harder than most to get out of their hole; the only thing holding them back is the fact they’re likely coming out of poverty or near poverty.
Coincidentally, the Cincinnati Enquirer must have been listening in on our conversation because they published this in their paper today: “Immigrants source of growth.” It’s not a big secret, but Americans don’t hear it enough.