The Influence of Immigrants on Median Household Income

Considering the simmering divide in the current debate on immigration policy issues, the United States lawmakers are not in a position to take a common ground on the legal aspects of the immigration policy. One of the major reasons that have been cited for the congress letdown is the deficiency in the empirical data to substantiate both the federal and the state overheads associated with immigrants and contributions that émigrés generate not only to the national economy but also to the metropolis.

In most instances, the opponents of the current immigration laws would argue that the influx of immigrants is the main cause of low wages, especially in the manufacturing industries, which in effect dampen the state and county economies. On the other hand, the proponents of immigration policies and procedures would argue otherwise, citing increased productivity as well as other economic contribution of the immigrants to the whole economy, including the metropolitan areas.

Essentially, in the current circumstances, immigration is coming out as a critical issue similar to race and criminal activities that determine the political direction over the vital values of the American society (Alba, Logan & Zhang, 2002). Immigration issues arouse national and economic disquiets. The concerns about immigration revolve around the protection of natural resources for the public good as well as the safety of the communities (Alba et al., 2002).

In other words, the debate revolves around the economic and social contributions of the immigrants. After several years of proportional insignificance, the general public is now increasingly concerned about the need to reform the emigration policies and laws (Ellen, 2000). As indicated, the current heated debate on the immigration policy reform is characterized by disagreements on the comparative data, facts as well as a deficiency in strategic measures (Ellen, 2000).

In fact, policymakers have greatly disagreed on certain strategic issues even though the public majority agrees on some of the suggestions proposed to improve the public and immigrants relations. However, the appropriate framework based on factual data and information forms the foundation on which the immigration policy issues can be settled (Ellen, 2000). In other words, providing the right information based on the actual data forms the foundation on which the issues raised on the immigration policy can be assessed (Ellen, 2000).

Lack of consensus on immigration policy issues is critical and needs to be understood from the context of real data and information (Logan, Stults & Farley, 2004). Even though the current study and policies are based on the census data, it is argued that the census data have several limitations. Generally, the existing data are inadequate in a number of ways. The existing data are one to two decades old. Most of the studies on immigrant economic contributions were based on these data.

Like in most census data, the 2000 census was conducted when the economy was well-performing (Logan et al., 2004). Therefore, the level in which the immigrants competed with the natives for the same job opportunities had the highest likelihood of being underestimated (Logan et al., 2004). Besides, the US census data do not distinguish the legal immigrants, refugees, and undocumented immigrants.

In addition, the Bureau of the Census, as well as scholars, have made slight efforts to measure the economic benefits of the immigrants. Variables such as the number of jobs created by the immigrants per year have not always been factored in during the studies (Logan et al., 2004). Moreover, while approximating how much is being spent on the immigrants, aspects such as the immigrant expenses have not always taken into consideration, yet they remain critical mechanisms for counterpoising paybacks.

Most of the studies also rely on aggregate data. The aggregate data have various deficiencies, especially where the consequences of the immigrants are measured (Logan et al., 2004). For instance, the aggregate statistics have the possibility of yielding reliable estimates. However, the cumulative data have the capability of categorizing the bearing of the migrants on certain productive areas where the economic consequences are higher (Logan et al., 2004).

The deficiency of the information concerning the economic and social issues of immigrants limits the understanding of how the immigrants contribute to the income status of most of the metropolitan populations (Alba et al., 2002). As indicated, most of the scholars and policymakers depend on the existing data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census concerning the public and fiscal features.

Besides, as previously mentioned, the Census Bureau provides statistics that neither differentiate between legal immigrants, refugees, and undocumented immigrants nor provide insight information concerning their income (Alba et al., 2002). Such limitations become critical while analyzing issues surrounding the immigrants, especially the economic contributions, which have often been overlooked by the critics (Alba et al., 2002).

In fact, while studying the characteristics of the illegal immigrants, the limitations on the data sources normally become a hindrance given the fact that the immigrants normally vary in their admission status. For instance, comparing the income levels, illegal immigrants are often found at the lower bottom of the table compared with other types of immigrants (Alba et al., 2002).

Therefore, in situations where data include only the legal migrants, there is a possibility of underestimating their economic wellbeing (Alba et al., 2002). The summative census data would, therefore, depict émigré human capital endowment below what it is supposed to be and overstate their welfare use.

The consideration of the data provided by the Bureau of the census remains critical given the fact that the policy is based on the data, and the strategies for each category of immigrants also differ (Alba et al., 2002). Besides, the proposals to improve the quality of the living standards normally target legal immigrants. The census bureau, therefore, assumes the economic contribution of illegal immigrants (Alba et al., 2002).

The framework in which the current immigration policy was designed included three diverse sets of legal regulations and institutions. Within the framework are laws that regulate all the processes of the immigrant categories (Ellen, 2000). The current debate on the immigration issues and policy reforms do not take into consideration the distinctions on the current legal and policy framework on immigration.

The current policy framework was based on five broad goals that included the goal of family re-unifications, the goal of public and economic security through the prevention of illegal immigration, and the moral objective of enhancing global human rights (Ellen, 2000). The fundamental objective of the current policy framework is the economic goal of increasing national productivity and improved standard of living.

In fact, the continuing discussions on emigration policy tend to downplay the economic contributions of the emigrants. The critiques of the current immigration policy concentrate on security, moral, political, and social issues (Ellen, 2000). The reason is that most of the data present within the public domain mainly concentrate on the social and moral problems associated with illegal immigration. In other words, the economic data is in the absence of the public domain.

The context of policy includes not just the public immigration policies that regulate the number of immigrants but also the regulations that influence the integration of the immigrants (Ellen, 2000). At the federal level, the strategies that deal with immigration encompass a wide array of factors that have always been overlooked by other levels of government.

However, at the state and local levels where immigrant policies aimed at integrating the immigrants are available; by contrast, the strategies are characterized by strewn and unlinked provisions (Ellen, 2000).

Critical analysis of the current debate revolves around these strategies. The majority do not differentiate the local-level programs and policies with federal immigration strategies. While the number of immigrants is steadily rising in the last decade, the federal linked support aimed at the resettling immigrants has been declining steadily (Ellen, 2000).

Therefore, this study will remain critical in addressing some of the issues, especially the issues that are concerned with data deficiency in the measure of income levels. Essentially, the current study addresses the issues of income levels of the immigrants against the metropolis. Such measures will remain critical in understanding the economic contribution of the immigrants not only to the metropolitan areas but also to the U.S. economy.

Research Question/Hypothesis

The paper will be examining the effects of the immigrants on the average household income for metropolitan areas within the U.S. In other words, the study will be answering the question of whether the average household income of the immigrants directly relates to the average household income for most of the cosmopolitan areas.

As such, it is hypothesized that urban areas with an increased number of immigrants will have a higher average household income compared with cosmopolitan areas with a low number of migrants. Therefore upon completion of the study, the following question would be addressed.

  • What is the correlation between the high number of foreign-born and the urban average household income?
  • Do the cosmopolitan areas with a high number of foreign-born have increased average household income compared with urban areas with a decreased proportion of the foreign-born?

The study hypothesis will be

  • H1: Metropolitan areas with a higher concentration of immigrants will have a higher average household income
  • H0: Metropolitan areas with a higher concentration of immigrants will have a low average household income

Data

The paper primarily utilizes the 2000 U.S. census statistics to examine the relationship between the concentration of the immigrants and the median household income of the 389 metropolitan areas within the United States. However, in the later investigations, the average household income levels of the Latinos and the Asian foreign-born will be evaluated separately to ascertain whether variances in the country of origin of the migrants exist while examining the average household income for the metropolitan areas.

Data from the metropolitan areas will also be used to analyze the income levels of the immigrants within the metropolis. While considering the concentration of the immigrants and average income levels in metropolitan areas, it is critical to understand the concept of metropolitan areas. According to Frey, Wilson, Berube, and Singer (2004), the metropolitan area is a socially and economically associated collection of large and small communities.

A metropolitan area is not a political jurisdiction, which may be under the control of the political appointee or politically elected person (Frey et al., 2004). However, the metropolitan areas are socially and economically recognized region.

As such, it becomes a critical area for statistical analysis, especially in an investigation that involves the socio-economic contribution of a subset community (Frey et al., 2004). The explanation reveals the reason why the metropolitan areas become the focus for the study of the influence of the concentration of immigrants on the median income.

The 2000 census data indicate that the majority of migrants are present in almost all urban areas. Between 1990 and 2000, about 93% of the immigrants lived in the metropolitan areas compared with natives that accounted for only about 73% of the total population (Frey et al., 2004). From the data, it can be concluded that the migrants have a profound effect on the areas they stay in. For instance, in Miami, the foreign-born account for 46%, while Los Angeles is around 33%. Jersey City has over 29% foreign-born (Frey et al., 2004).

The income levels of immigrants in most of the metropolitan areas are much less compared with the natives. The comparative data does not undermine the impact of the émigrés income on the aggregate urban household income compared with the native population (Frey et al., 2004). In fact, the 2000 census statistics indicate that the incomes of the rising number of the foreign-born are cumulative progressively conditioned by the duration of stay in the U.S. (Frey et al., 2004).

Besides, the influx of the huge proportion of the foreign-born has increased the average household income level of some cosmopolitan areas and challenging the common knowledge on the manner in which the migrants are adjusting into the new country (Frey et al., 2004). The 2000 census data indicate that English language ability and education tend to be playing a significant factor in determining their social and economic status (Frey et al., 2004).

However, the 2000 census data indicate mixed results. Some of the metropolitan areas with a higher percentage of the immigrant populations indicate low median income, while the reverse is also true with metropolitan areas with a low percentage concentration of immigrant population.

The meaning is that there are some variables that determine the median income rather than the concentration of the immigrant population. Nevertheless, on average, the metropolitan areas with higher concentration percentage indicated increased average household income.

Selected metropolitan areas Foreign-born (%) Median income

Abilene, TX 5.1 44,007

Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 7.4 45,955

Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 10.3 54148

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 7.1 43,419

Fort Wayne, IN 5.3 50,082

Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH 1.1 38908

Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ 6.7 39383

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 29.5 33,218

Ocala, FL 8.3 39770

Provo-Orem, UT 7.0 59594

Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA 23.5 62723

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 12.4 46606

Worcester, MA 17.9 44256

Figure 1 2000 Census Data on selected metropolitan areas (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001)

One of the critical factors that determine the immigrants’ income as well as the integration into the normal population is economic performance. In other words, the immigrants’ economic performance determines their wellbeing in the new country. The employment status, income levels, and occupation are all encompassed on the socio-economic status of the immigrants.

The 2000 census statistics indicate that once in the labor force, immigrant household income levels change, which in effect causes alterations in the average household income levels of the native. As such, the graphic measurements of the socio-economic performances of the immigrants offer the basis in which average natives’ household income levels can be assessed.

According to the 2000 census projections, the number of immigrants who have entered the U.S. labor market has risen from 6.5% in 1990 to over 9.5% in 2000. Further, the available statistics indicate that the influence of the immigrants on the labor market has not changed significantly. The unemployment rate for both the natives and foreign-born is almost equal (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001).

The changes in economic conditions also affect the natives and immigrants evenly. However, the recent economic crisis had hit the immigrants harder compared with the natives. At the lowest education levels, the unemployment rate is higher among the natives compared with the foreign-born. However, the reverse is the case at the high education levels.

In terms of occupation, education levels play a significant role. In fact, the majority of the foreign-born Americans are found within the operators and service workers’ occupation (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). The occupation status sends a faint picture of how the immigrants are performing in the overall economy. About 40% of the immigrants are found within the indicated occupations compared with the natives, which accounts for 33% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001).

The variation can be explained by the small number of native women involved in such occupations. Besides, the current immigrants are found within the two occupations compared with the former immigrants. The indication is that immigrants gain skills and get to know the new job opportunities as they become acquainted with their new country.

The 2000 census also indicates that the foreign-born have little opportunity of attaining professional jobs. In fact, about 25% of the foreign-born holds those jobs compared with 30% of the natives. The disparity can be explained by the differences in the language.

Most of the firms fear non-English speakers, especially in positions where there are increased interactions with the public (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). Even though there is a decreased possibility for the foreign-born to attain the managerial jobs, the data indicate the number increases due to the rising number of education levels. The foreign-born in professional jobs has increased by about 72% compared with a 37% increase by the natives.

The third component of the economic status is income. The low educations and occupation levels that characterize immigrants at the time of arrival have a significant effect on the total immigrant income level. About 66% of immigrants earn less than $20,000 compared with 57% in the last decade (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). Similarly, the natives are more likely to fall within the middle-class category compared with the foreign-born.

However, at the higher income category, both foreign-born and the natives are almost in equal proportion. Despite the difference in the individual income levels, the household incomes virtually remain at the same level as the natives (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). The household of the immigrants are normally larger and have many earners compared with the natives.

In terms of origin, there are significant differences in the performances of the immigrants. The 2000 census data indicates that the foreign-born Asian communities are performing economically well compared with the Latinos as well as the natives. Besides, the data indicate that the Asian foreign-born is performing well compared with the natives. Data further indicate that education levels play a critical role in terms of employment.

References

Alba, R. D., Logan, J. R. & Zhang (2002). Immigrant enclaves and ethnic communities in New York and Los Angeles. American Sociological Review, 67, 299–322.

Ellen, I. G. (2000). Sharing America’s neighborhoods: The prospects for stable integration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Frey, W. H., Wilson, J. H., Berube, A. & Singer, A. (2004). Tracking metropolitan America into the 21st century: A field guide to the new metropolitan and micropolitan definitions. Washington DC: The Brookings Institution.

Logan, J. R., Stults, B. J. & Farley, R. (2004). Segregation of minorities in the metropolis: Two decades of change. Demography, 41(1), 1–22.

U.S. Census Bureau (2001). Census of population and housing, 2000: summary file 7. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.