Tag Archives: Arizona

Comparing US states by their unauthorised immigrant population

California is a common rhetorical example used to illustrate the harms of immigration (unauthorised or otherwise) in the US. People point to California’s runaway government debt, poor public school system, and rising rates of social disorder/crime as the inevitable consequences of more liberal immigration policies. I thought it might be worth pulling together a 50-state view (plus the District of Columbia) to see what we can generalise from a ranking of jurisdictions by their unauthorised immigrant populations.

The Pew Research Center has provided some estimates of the unauthorised immigrant population by state in 1990 and 2010 (see tables A3 and A4), and I combined these with US Census Data of the population by state to calculate the share of unauthorised immigrants in each state’s population in 1990 and 2010. It was then a simple step to calculate how much the unauthorised immigrant population has grown or shrunk over the intervening 2 decades.

In 1990, these were the top 10 states (and DC) by share of unauthorised immigrants in their population:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Arizona
  5. Nevada
  6. New York
  7. Florida
  8. Illinois
  9. New Mexico
  10. New Jersey

In 1990 the bottom 10 were:

  1. Tennessee
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Missouri
  4. Mississippi
  5. Indiana
  6. Iowa
  7. South Carolina
  8. Kentucky
  9. Alabama
  10. Ohio

And as of 2010, here are the top 10 states by share of population:

  1. Nevada
  2. California
  3. Texas
  4. New Jersey
  5. Arizona
  6. Maryland
  7. District of Columbia
  8. Florida
  9. Georgia
  10. New Mexico

The bottom 10 are:

  1. South Carolina
  2. Alaska
  3. South Dakota
  4. Missouri
  5. Ohio
  6. Vermont
  7. North Dakota
  8. Montana
  9. Maine
  10. West Virginia

While I’m not sure what life in these United States was like in 1990, I do know that in 2010 I would much prefer to live in any of the top 10 states ranked by the proportion of unauthorised immigrants in their population than I would prefer to live in the bottom 10. (In fact, I almost live in the District of Columbia: it’s literally walking distance from my current home, though to be fair, the parts of DC that are most accessible to me are also the swankiest. I am quite sure I would not have wanted to live in the District in 1990, however.)

Another way to rank the states would be how much their unauthorised immigrant population has grown. Here are the top 10 states ranked according to the absolute percentage point change in their unauthorised immigrant population:

  1. Nevada
  2. New Jersey
  3. Texas
  4. Maryland
  5. Georgia
  6. Arizona
  7. Oregon
  8. North Carolina
  9. New Mexico
  10. Utah

Meanwhile the bottom 10 (the bottom 3 are actually negative, i.e. the proportion of unauthorised immigrants fell over these 20 years):

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Missouri
  3. Wyoming
  4. South Dakota
  5. West Virginia
  6. Maine
  7. Alaska
  8. Montana
  9. North Dakota
  10. Vermont

Again, I would much prefer to live in most any of the top 10 states than I would in the bottom 10. I lived in New Hampshire/Vermont for the first 4 years of my time in the US (I lived actually on the border of those two states) and as beautiful as they are in the autumn, I can’t say they have much to offer otherwise, especially in the depths of winter (though it would also depend on how much you love skiing or other winter sports). Obviously there is cause and effect here: nice states attract more immigrants. But it does seem clear that if unauthorised immigrants “kill the goose that lays the golden egg” by laying waste to the land of these attractive states, it isn’t terribly apparent from these rankings.

There is one way to slice the data that might be more favourable to restrictionist conclusions, though: we can rank states by the percentage change in their unauthorised immigrant population. So Alabama, with 0.12% of its population unlawfully present in 1990 versus 2.5% in 2010 would have a (2.5 – 0.12) / 0.12 = 1920.2% increase. The low base effect means that these rankings are somewhat suspect, but for your benefit, here they are (along with all the other data I used to construct the rankings above):

State/District 1990 % of pop 2010 % of pop %age point change over 20 years % growth over 20 years
Alabama 0.12% 2.50% 2.38% 1920.19%
Iowa 0.18% 2.50% 2.32% 1288.42%
Kentucky 0.14% 1.80% 1.66% 1227.28%
Tennessee 0.21% 2.20% 1.99% 972.98%
Indiana 0.18% 1.80% 1.62% 897.95%
Ohio 0.09% 0.90% 0.81% 876.24%
North Carolina 0.38% 3.50% 3.12% 828.54%
Wisconsin 0.20% 1.80% 1.60% 780.52%
Arkansas 0.21% 1.80% 1.59% 746.22%
South Carolina 0.14% 1.20% 1.06% 736.71%
Mississippi 0.19% 1.60% 1.41% 724.15%
Georgia 0.54% 4.40% 3.86% 714.40%
Nebraska 0.32% 2.40% 2.08% 657.64%
Hawaii 0.45% 3.10% 2.65% 587.10%
Maryland 0.73% 4.60% 3.87% 528.33%
Pennsylvania 0.21% 1.30% 1.09% 517.91%
Connecticut 0.61% 3.40% 2.79% 458.81%
Michigan 0.27% 1.50% 1.23% 457.72%
New Jersey 1.23% 6.20% 4.97% 404.50%
Oregon 0.88% 4.30% 3.42% 388.88%
Minnesota 0.34% 1.60% 1.26% 366.74%
Missouri 0.20% 0.90% 0.70% 360.52%
Utah 0.87% 3.80% 2.93% 336.46%
Oklahoma 0.48% 2.00% 1.52% 319.41%
Washington 0.82% 3.40% 2.58% 313.67%
Delaware 0.75% 3.00% 2.25% 299.70%
Kansas 0.61% 2.40% 1.79% 296.41%
Colorado 0.91% 3.60% 2.69% 295.34%
Louisiana 0.36% 1.40% 1.04% 293.88%
Nevada 2.08% 7.20% 5.12% 246.08%
Virginia 0.81% 2.70% 1.89% 234.22%
New Mexico 1.32% 4.30% 2.98% 225.74%
Rhode Island 1.00% 3.00% 2.00% 201.04%
New Hampshire 0.45% 1.20% 0.75% 166.22%
Massachusetts 0.91% 2.40% 1.49% 162.53%
Texas 2.65% 6.70% 4.05% 152.91%
Arizona 2.46% 6.00% 3.54% 144.36%
Florida 1.85% 4.50% 2.65% 142.59%
Illinois 1.75% 4.10% 2.35% 134.33%
Idaho 0.99% 2.20% 1.21% 121.48%
District of Columbia 2.47% 4.50% 2.03% 82.07%
West Virginia 0.28% 0.50% 0.22% 79.35%
New York 1.95% 3.20% 1.25% 64.49%
South Dakota 0.72% 1.00% 0.28% 39.20%
Wyoming 1.10% 1.50% 0.40% 36.08%
California 5.04% 6.80% 1.76% 34.90%
Maine 0.41% 0.50% 0.09% 22.79%
Alaska 0.91% 1.00% 0.09% 10.01%
Montana 0.63% 0.50% -0.13% -20.09%
North Dakota 0.78% 0.50% -0.28% -36.12%
Vermont 0.89% 0.50% -0.39% -43.72%

One interesting reaction to all these numbers might be that two decades is too little time to truly assess the long-run impact of unauthorised immigration on a state’s economy and society. So we should be looking for states like Nevada, Texas, New Jersey, Maryland, etc. to become “wastelands” like California over the next decade or two (or at least see some pernicious effects such as bankrupt local governments or increasingly horrid public schools). Then again, many of these states were already in the top 10 in 1990, so it’s not all that clear that we shouldn’t be seeing these supposed effects already.

If you have any thoughts or reactions, feel free to share in the comments. I’ve also uploaded the same numbers in Excel spreadsheet format for ease of use. Hopefully these figures can drive some interesting conversation going forward; it’s quite plausible that I or another Open Borders blogger may return to them in the future.

The economic effects of Arizona’s immigration crackdown

The state of Arizona in the Southern United States, which shares a border with Mexico, has carried out various immigration crackdowns over the past few years, the most recent of which has been the SB-1070 law. Pro-immigration groups, along with various civil rights advocacy groups, have generally opposed these laws as wrong-headed, while groups opposed to immigration (particularly illegal immigration) have been generally supportive of these laws. Some pro-immigration groups, such as the Immigration Policy Center, have argued that the strategy of attrition through enforcement, which is the general approach that Arizona has followed, is flawed:

These conclusions are bolstered by new research from the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute in Los Angeles and El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana. This research indicates that, when it comes to Mexican migration patterns, “northbound flows are holding steady with signs of increasing unauthorized migration, while southbound flows are decreasing. The result is that the size of the Mexican-born population in the United States has fully recovered from losses experienced during the recession.” Moreover, “given the available indicators as of mid-2012, it appears that even a relatively small increase in the demand for Mexican labor in the U.S. economy would prompt a positive response in the migration flows despite intensified enforcement efforts by the federal government, several states, and some local governments.”

I’ve been critical of this economic determinism in the past, and I think that in this respect, restrictionists are right when they argue that increased enforcement (a) decreases the number of new illegal immigrants entering the state, and possibly decreases the total number of illegal immigrants entering the country, and (b) leads some immigrants to leave the state, though this is usually to other states, not the country. Now, in the case of Arizona, the fact that other nearby states like California and New Mexico did not carry out similar crackdowns means that most of the attrition from Arizona happened at the expense (or to the benefit, depending on your point of view) of these nearby states. This reconciles the “economic determinist” observation that state-level immigration crackdowns did not affect the overall flow of illegal immigrants into the United States, and that the decrease is completely explicable by economic trends, while simultaneously vindicating restrictionists’ claim that attrition through enforcement does work at the state level.

But the mere fact that restrictionists’ “attrition through enforcement” strategy “works” in the sense of reducing the number or proportion of illegal immigrants (relative to the counterfactual) does not imply that the strategy “works” in the more relevant sense, i.e., that it brings about the improvements in native quality of life that restrictionists hope to achieve with their policies. To figure out what’s happening to native quality of life, it’s not good enough to look at the proportions of illegal immigrants. Rather, one needs to look at what’s happening to native.

For convenience, I provide here a spectrum of five possibilities:

  1. Dramatic cut in native quality of life. This kind of apocalyptic narrative relies on the idea that immigrants do jobs natives won’t do, and on the questionable assumption that when immigrants leave, the jobs will vanish entirely and there will be no adjustment or reconfiguration. In this view, for instance, if 90% of restaurant workers are illegal immigrants in a city, then when the immigrants leave, then 90% of restaurant jobs will vanish.
  2. Modest cut in native quality of life. This narrative relies on the economy readjusting to the absence of immigrant labor, but while the readjustment optimizes for the new ground realities, the fewer resources available overall means that native quality of life reduces somewhat.
  3. No effect on natives. In this view, either the readjustment is perfect, or the reduction in other problems that immigrants create (crime, welfare state use, etc.) compensates for the economic inefficiencies generated by their departure.
  4. Modest gain in native quality of life. In this view, native wages go up with less immigrant competition, and natives have more resources for themselves now that there is less crime, welfare state use, etc. by immigrants. A few rich and powerful natives lose out because they have to pay higher wages.
  5. Dramatic gain in native quality of life. In this view, all immigrant jobs get replaced by natives doing the same job, so native unemployment goes down to (near-)zero, crime is at an all time low, and the economy undergoes a renaissance.

(1) and (5) are relatively extreme positions, which people more often accuse their opponents of espousing than they themselves espouse. The relevant range is (2)-(4). My view is that the truth lies somewhere between (2) and (3). But is there any research on the issue in the context of Arizona?

The Immigration Policy Center has a page with various ways that Arizona’s immigration crackdown has hurt the state. Some of the data here does would lead a person to be skeptical of whether Arizona’s immigration crackdown has been beneficial to the state. Still, one does not need to be a hardcore restrictionist to find the material on the page unconvincing. The main problem: most of their anecdotes do little to specifically separate out the costs and benefits to natives in isolation, which is what the state-level citizenist really cares about. Also, some of their cost statements seem hypocritical. For instance, they argue that bad publicity from the law, and legal challenges to the law, themselves cost the state of Arizona a lot of money. That’s true, but it sounds an awful lot like victim blaming to me, given that the Immigration Policy Center is at the forefront of generating the bad publicity and supporting the legal challenges.

To my knowledge, the best single piece on the Arizona immigration crackdown, that specifically considers and attempts to isolate and discuss the effects on the native population, is the paper The Economic Case against Arizona’s Immigration Laws by Alex Nowrasteh. Alex traces what happened in Arizona and the nearby states of California and New Mexico in some of the industries that most heavily use (illegal) immigrant labor and would be most likely to be affected (positively or negatively) by Arizona’s crackdown: agriculture, construction, and the restaurant industry. Since there is too little data on SB 1070, Alex looks at the effect of earlier, less comprehensive, crackdowns on immigration.

His findings differ somewhat for the three sectors, but the construction sector findings are perhaps the most interesting: the share of natives employed in construction declined somewhat over the period studied by Alex, even as the share of immigrants employed in construction declined much more. Moreover, the decline in the population share employed in construction for Arizona was more than for California and New Mexico (Alex also told me over email that the decline in share of native employment in construction was also more for Arizona than for California, although he does not mention this detail in his paper). The comparison with other states is relevant because the confounding factor of a recession in the United States around that time that disproportionately affected the construction sector. Similar data discussed by Alex makes the strong case for position (2) in the spectrum I listed above: the immigration crackdown did not spell disaster for Arizona, but likely had a small negative impact on native quality of life.

I have a few reservations about the paper, which I will discuss in a subsequent blog post. Clearly, as with all social scientific analyses, there is a lot of guesswork involved regarding counterfactuals. If you start off with the neutral position which I list as (3) on the spectrum (i.e., no effect on natives), it’s possible that reading the paper, you may still stay at (3), though my sense is that the evidence presented in the paper should move you at least somewhat towards a (2). But at any rate, I don’t see the evidence as moving one’s position towards the restrictionist side.

To my knowledge, there isn’t any comparable analysis written from a restrictionist perspective. The Center for Immigration Studies has a page on SB1070, but this focuses almost completely on the legal aspects, not on the economic effects. The best I could do with a quick search on various restrictionist websites was an article on VDARE titled Arizona Economy Booming Without Illegal Aliens. But this three-paragraph article doesn’t offer any direct evidence — only a link to and quote from a USA Today news item:

As of February, the state had added 42,6000 new, non-farm jobs over the previous year, and state revenues have increased 8.7% so far in 2012. The Arizona Office of Tourism found the state generated $17.7 billion in direct travel spending in 2010 — a 7.9% increase over the previous year. Brewer said there may have been a negative effect in the immediate aftermath of the law, but that the state has rebounded and the “Arizona comeback” is here.

“Businesses are coming. People are recruiting,” Brewer said. “We should get a lot of kudos for what we’ve accomplished.”

Although this discussion might be more directly relevant to SB1070 — since it is over the time period relevant for SB1070, as opposed to Alex’s analysis which is for an earlier period — it does not seem to me to be a very convincing argument for the positive effects of Arizona’s immigration crackdown (just as some of the Immigration Policy Center’s anecdotes are not too convincing in the other direction). If there are more thorough and sophisticated analyses of the economic effects of Arizona’s laws from a restrictionist perspective, I’d definitely like to read through them. Please leave links and references in the comments if you know of any good analyses.

I’ll blog my criticisms and reservations regarding Alex’s paper in a subsequent post.

Whoever he is, the next US President will be wrong on immigration

Josh Barro of Bloomberg has a good piece on 5 terrible policies which both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney endorsed in last night’s US presidential debate. My only complaint about Barro’s article: its obvious failure to mention immigration policy. The immigration status quo, not just in the US but in virtually every modern nation-state, is regressive, degenerate, and immoral. Maybe this universality makes it unremarkable in the US, but keeping the borders closed certainly qualifies as one of the “Worst Ideas Romney and Obama Agree On,” per Barro’s headline. Continue reading “Whoever he is, the next US President will be wrong on immigration” »

Arizona-Style Immigration Laws Hurt the Economy

This piece originally appeared in Forbes here, and is reproduced with permission from the author. It is written specifically in the context of United States politics.

With  the “papers please” portion of Arizona’s recent immigration law SB 1070 going into effect, civil rights and watchdog groups are in  overdrive readying for the litany of purported abuses and complaints.  Lydia Guzman, president of Respect Respeto, a civil rights group in Arizona that records abuses at the hands of police, said, “Our hotline has been receiving hundreds of calls a day since the law was implemented.”

Forcibly removing peaceful unauthorized immigrants from the U.S., separating them from their families, property, and jobs, to satisfy arcane labor market regulations created by Progressive politicians, is an appalling indecency.  It also inflicts significant economic harm. Arizona’s immigration laws have drastically damaged its economy since mid-2007. The humanitarian arguments may leave those who complain the loudest about unauthorized immigration unmoved, but the supporters of Arizona style immigration laws might be persuaded by the economic costs.

In a new Policy Analysis by the Cato Institute called “The Economic Case against Arizona’s Immigration Laws,” I analyze the economic carnage inflicted by Arizona’s immigration laws.

The Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA or employer sanctions) was the first such law, and it tried to regulate unauthorized workers out of the market.  Its chief tool is E-Verify, an electronic employment eligibility verification system used to weed out unauthorized immigrants when they apply for a job.

E-Verify has three major problems.  It is very expensive, discourages investment and increases unemployment.

Just to run an employee through costs around $147. Compliance, however, also requires additional human resources and legal services, increasing the financial burden on firms.

The second problem is that E-Verify scares away businesses, investment, and workers.  E-Verify is tied to what then-Governor Janet Napolitano called the “business death penalty.”  Businesses that knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants have their licenses revoked on a second offense, killing the business.

Despite the fact that application of the business death penalty has been relatively rare the prospect has scared investors and businesses out of the state.  It was largely responsible for a shocking business formation rate decline of 14.3 percent in the third quarter of 2007 in Arizona, rates of business formation in California and New Mexico increased over the same time.

Entrepreneur Richard Melman halted plans of opening a restaurant in Arizona after LAWA passed said:  “You put in $3 million or $4 million, and you can be shut down for a mis­take. Why take a chance? I want to see how it plays out.”  He wasn’t the only one.

The third problem with E-Verify is that it increases unemployment.  Supporters of E-Verify like Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas and author of many different state level anti-immigrant bills, claim that E-Verify will force unauthorized immigrants out of jobs so Americans can fill them.

In reality, some unauthorized immigrants are forced out of jobs, which then mostly remain unfilled.  In the immigrant heavy farming industry, crop production employment dropped by 15.6 percent in the first 4 years after LAWA was passed.  American workers did not fill the gaps.  In neighboring New Mexico and California, crop production employment increased over the same time period.  E-Verify explains much of that difference.

Two and a half years after LAWA was passed, Arizona created a more controversial law called SB 1070 to enforce immigration laws outside of the workplace.  The combined effects of LAWA and SB 1070 forced about 200,000 people out of Arizona, most of them from the Phoenix area.

In the six years after April, 2006, the home price index for the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the nation declined by 32.9 percent.  In the Phoenix area, the price index declined by a whopping 51.29 percent.

The housing bust, combined with forcing 200,000 consumers of real-estate out of Arizona lowered prices further.  Homeowner and rental vacancy rates in Arizona were consistently above those in California and New Mexico.  For four years after LAWA passed, Albuquerque and Los Angeles even recorded vacancy rates that were 50 to 75 percent lower than those prevailing in Phoenix.

As a result of the triple whammy of E-Verify, the business death penalty, and the housing price decline partly caused by forcing hundreds of thousands of renters and buyers out of the market, employment in construction collapsed faster and further than in neighboring states.

The economic harm caused by LAWA and SB 1070 is only the tip of the iceberg.  Following the next election, when numerous states will begin to consider Arizona style immigration laws, they should pause to survey the tremendous economic toll it has taken on Arizona.

Open Borders note: More related information is available at the Arizona immigration crackdown page.

Economic Judgment on Arizona’s Immigration Law

This is a cross-posting, with permission from the author, of an article that originally appeared in the Huffington Post here.

On April 25, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. But jurisprudence aside, the economic verdict is already in: The law has damaged Arizona’s economy.

Arizona’s immigration law burdens businesses with regulation and penalizes workers. It has driven tens of thousands of laborers, consumers and entrepreneurs from the state, turning its bad economy even worse.

At its heart, Arizona’s immigration policy is an unfunded mandate that raises the cost of hiring workers and expanding production. Neither is good policy in even the best of economies, which we are far from experiencing currently.

The worst example: E-Verify. It’s an electronic verification system that employers are supposed to use to check the legal work status of all new employees. Besides failing to detect unauthorized immigrants 54 percent of the time — thus flunking its core function — E-Verify falsely identifies legal workers as illegal about one percent of the time. Continue reading “Economic Judgment on Arizona’s Immigration Law” »