Tag Archives: immigration

Don’t flatter yourself, Trump’s America

So Hillary Clinton apparently said,

My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.

What’s the big deal? Anyone who doesn’t occasionally dream of open borders either hasn’t dreamed much or doesn’t have very high ambitions for the unity of the human race. (She says now it was really just about energy policy, but come on.)

Of course, in the context of speaking to a bunch of .01% bankers, that’s not really the point: it’s a signal that she leans in their direction on “free” trade and movement of labor, so it’s probably not quite the unicorn-style dream I have in mind (I already criticized her currently-expressed vision on this, which reflects her adaptation to the political moment, and might last the rest of her career.)

Anyway, my point is about Trump’s reaction (video).

…frankly when you’re working for Hillary, she wants to let people just pour in. You could have 650 million people pour in and we do nothing about it. Think of it, that’s what could happen. You triple the size of our country in one week.

Two points. First is this is idiotic. I can only guess that whoever gave him that number was adding together the entire populations of North and South America, minus the U.S., which is actually almost exactly 650 million. So, in a week, if allowed, every single person in our hemisphere would move into the US.

Now, those of us in the dream-of-open-borders community do dream of these things. I wrote this once, after imagining combining the populations of the US and Central American countries, as well as Israel and with occupied territories:

This simplistic analysis yields a straightforward hypothesis: violence and military force at national borders rises as the income disparity across the border increases. … The demographic solution is obvious: open the borders, release the pressure, and devote resources to improving quality of life and social harmony instead of enforcing inequality. You’re welcome!

I wasn’t really talking about people moving, but rather about borders moving, or being taken down. How many people would actually move is an interesting question, one which I hope will be important one day.

For perspective, you might compare Trump’s fear-mongering in scale to the largest ever migration of people, the movement into the cities of China, during which something like 340 million people moved in about 20 years. It wasn’t pretty! It also wasn’t an “open borders” situation, as most of them weren’t really allowed to move, resulting in a bad situation of second-class citizenship for many of the migrants and their children. Thankfully, it also didn’t take place in a week — although just the annual new year travel in China (which largely results from the separations their great migration has caused) generates some of the most spectacular traffic images ever:


Second, it’s insulting. Like Trump’s description of African Americans living in “hell,” where they have nothing to lose, “your schools are no good, you have no jobs,” etc.:

Many people have made the point that Trump’s sympathy regarding Black hardship is drowned out by his grotesque stereotyping and dehumanizing dismissal. I haven’t heard the same said about his 650-million-migrants claim, but it’s really the same thing.

I’m sure a lot of people would move to the US if the borders were opened. But I bet at least a few people somewhere between Canada and Chile would find a reason to stay in their homes. And not just because that would keep them away from us.

Related: Must-know demographic facts (it couldn’t hurt!)


Filed under Politics

International adoption to the US has fallen 75%

Just updated my data series on international adoption. You can see previous posts, with commentary, at the adoption tag.

The data are the US State Department, which grants the adoption visas. It’s kind of a mess, back to 1999, here. (I have an old spreadsheet that goes back to 1990 for the big countries but I can’t find the link anymore.) The most recent report is here, and the briefer narrative is here. For the first time in those documents I saw an official description of what’s changed in China, which partly explains the broader trends. The State Department says 20,000-30,000 children are placed domestically in China now, as a result of increased government focus on domestic adoption, although without providing comparison numbers. They also say more than 90% of children adopted to the US from China now have special health needs, up from 5% in 2005. They conclude, reasonably it seems, that this results from “overall positive changes made to the child welfare system in China over the last decade.”

Anyway, here’s the chart. I show detail on those that ever had more than 2000 adoptions in one year, plus Haiti (because of the important history there), and Uganda and Ukraine (which are among the top five sending countries in the most recent year).

adoptions stats.xlsx


Filed under In the news

Immigrant health paradox update

I wrote a few years ago about the surprisingly low infant mortality rates among immigrants, especially Mexican immigrants, given their relative socioeconomic status. As poor as they other, in other words, we would expect higher infant mortality rates than they have. This has been called the epidemiological paradox. Here is an update, which includes some text from the previous post.

In almost every race/ethnic group, immigrants are healthier.* Here’s the pattern for infant mortality, now updated with 2010 infant mortality rates from federal vital statistics records (click to enlarge).


For Latinos in particular, their health is surprisingly good given their economic conditions. Robert Hummer and colleagues, in a 2007 article, offered a succinct description:

…the relatively low levels of education, income, and health insurance coverage among Hispanics compared with non-Hispanic whites is thought to place the former at higher risk for negative health outcomes. However, it is well documented that some Hispanic groups exhibit similar observed death rates compared with the non-Hispanic white population and much lower death rates than the non-Hispanic black population, whom they closely resemble with respect to socioeconomic characteristics. The greatest enigma is exhibited by the Mexican-origin population of the United States. This Hispanic subgroup is characterized by low educational attainment; low health insurance coverage rates; mortality rates similar to non-Hispanic whites; and much more favorable mortality rates than those of non-Hispanic blacks across most of the life course.

In a 2013 revisiting of the paradox, Daniel Powers confirms the basic pattern, but adds an important wrinkle for Mexican mothers: the foreign-born advantage disappears for older mothers. Thus, children born to older Mexican immigrants have similar risks as those who mothers are born in the U.S. He concludes, in part:

Given the association between infant survival and maternal health, differential infant survival within the Mexican-origin population suggests that longer exposure to social conditions in the U.S. undermines the health of mothers who, in general, seem to have more favorable health endowments than their non-Hispanic white counterparts as evidenced by the relatively lower rates of infant mortality at younger ages.

Immigrants are often healthier than the average people in the countries they came from, which explains some of the paradox. However, our ability to accurately assess the relative health of immigrants versus the populations they left behind is limited by available data. Further, in the case of Mexico, the situation is complicated by cyclical movements of immigration and emigration. In a recent paper, Georgiana Bostean reviews this problem, and compares the health of immigrants, non-migrants, and return migrants to Mexico. And — It’s complicated. She concludes:

…there is no simple explanation for Latinos’ perplexing health outcomes, such as simply that healthier people migrate. Rather, migrants are positively selected in some health aspects, negatively selected in others, and in yet other health outcomes, there is no selection effect. In sum, selective migration plays a role in explaining some of U.S. Latinos’ health outcomes, but is not the only explanation and does not account for the Paradox.

These articles are a good place to start on this topic: lots of references to fill in the background and previous research on this paradox, which goes back at least to the 1980s. This is a fascinating and important research area, dealing with such questions as health behaviorintergenerational change, thorny puzzles about different immigrant groups, child development and lots more.

*Because Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. (albeit not a free part), people born in Puerto Rico who move to the states are not immigrants, just migrants. In the figure I used the terms “US Born” and “Foreign born,” but this is just shorthand, and not strictly accurate for Puerto Ricans.


Filed under Uncategorized

You got your immigrant in my interbreeding!

Immigration is in the news. What will American become this time?

I’m shocked at David Brooks’ gross mischaracterization of history. He writes America is becoming a “nation of mutts”:

…up until now, America was primarily an outpost of European civilization. Between 1830 and 1880, 80 percent of the immigrants came from Northern and Western Europe. Over the following decades, the bulk came from Southern and Central Europe. In 1960, 75 percent of the foreign-born population came from Europe, with European ideas and European heritage.

But were all those European immigrants considered to be part of “European civilization” a century ago? In fact, even excluding American Indians, Blacks, Mexicans, Chinese and others, “we” were already being described as a nation of mutts in the 19th century. To choose one of many examples, here is Timothy Wilfred Coakley speaking at Faneuil Hall in Boston on Independence Day 1906:

We have evolved the race of races, the American race. We are sprung from all the peoples of Europe. … It was not alone that one nation was to be framed from thirteen colonies, it was that Frenchmen and Englishmen, Irishmen, Welshmen, Spaniards, Swedes, Dutchmen, Jew and Gentile, had been welded into one. It was this blend, now of mind, now of body, now of both, which made possible the type of intelligence able to grasp the opportunity and to brave the test of revolution.

American was not a product of a unitary “European civilization,” but of a “racial fraternity” of these “various European races,” which made the “American race.” Here it is in verse:

To the making of heroes like these, perforce,
Humanity’s federate blood-strains have gone;
But, Keltic or Saxon, Teuton or Norse,
Latin or Slav, they are Yankees of course,
For Freedom has fused them in one.

It’s a particular tradition of American racism to believe, as Brooks suggests, that Europeans are all one “race,” that so that only with the latest waves of immigration are “we” becoming a “nation of mutts.”


“Becoming a nation of…”

Brooks’s entry joins the “becoming a nation of…” historical parade I have described before, the roster of which comprises American nations of (in chronological order): free men, drunkards, castes, bull-dogs, music lovers, dreamers, lawyers, neurotics, coffee drinkers, the elderly, readers, illiterates, burger flippers, joiners and orthorexics.

He’s seems a little late to the parade with this term, though. I was sure I’d heard it before, not just from PETA complaining about the Obamas’ dog, but from some guy on the Op-Ed page of the Washington Times in 1997 (“America is rapidly becoming a nation of mutts. Our country’s traditional character is being systematically destroyed by nihilistic “liberals”); Jonathan Turley in 2004 (“If you want a pure breed, buy a dog”); Stanley Crouch; Joe Feuerherd; various college guides, and many more.


Filed under In the news

How many people should die waiting for citizenship? 319,462?

Just the facts. Or, a very crude estimate of the facts. You tell me if this is too many deaths.

Here I combine sources of information to produce a guess of how many undocumented immigrants will die waiting 13 years to become citizens under the proposed immigration reform bill. The information includes the number and ages of the current undocumented population, and the 2008 Hispanic life table estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics (which tell you the death rate for people in that group for every age by sex).

Here is my guess. If the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants waited 13 years to become citizens, 319,462 — or 2.8% of them — will die in the process. If that were true, do you think it would be too many, or too few?

Some details

The Congressional Research Service in 2012 estimated that there were 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the country in 2011. This is their age distribution by sex:

undocumented age sexMy estimate makes the following unreasonable assumptions:

  1. The undocumented population is evenly distributed within each of these age groups, with the 55+ group evenly distributed between the ages 55-64 only. This is undoubtedly not true, but probably doesn’t make much difference unless the 55+ group is much older than I’m guessing.
  2. The death rates for undocumented immigrants are equal to those of the U.S. Hispanic population. Why? 81% of the undocumented population is from Latin America, so that’s where I start (which seems to be what these serious demographers did, too). This would be off because immigrants have lower mortality rates than US-born Hispanics. On the other hand, undocumented immigrants might have higher mortality than immigrants in general, especially because of health-care access problems, which the proposed bill promises not to address. I don’t know how these or other factors balance out.
  3. Nobody leaves the country alive, and no more undocumented immigrants arrive.

If you’d like to see how I did it, here is my spreadsheet. (If you don’t like the way Excel does the maths, by all means, fix it in R.)


Filed under In the news

Let a hundred churches bloom

For Independence Day, I pause to consider religious freedom and immigration.

I recently made some trips out New Hampshire Ave., in Montgomery County, MD. In a 9-mile stretch of road (including a turn off onto the road where my kids’ summer camp was), here is some of what I saw:

Muslim Community Center

St. Andrew Ukranian Orthodox Cathedral

Iglesia de Dios / Church of God

First Alliance Church

Transfiguration Church Episcopal Anglican

Eun Sam Evangelical Church of Washington

Colesville Baptist Church

Colesville Presbyterian Church

New Hampshire Avenue Gospel Chapel

Our Lady of Vietnam Parish

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Good Shepherd United Methodist Church

Lutheran Church of St. Andrew

Lord’s Prayer Presbyterian Church

St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church

Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring

New Life Baptist Church

Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church

Heritage Christian Church

Iglesia Adventista

I counted about 30 houses of worship along what some people call the Highway to Heaven. Through some combination of immigration and residential settlement patterns, real estate and zoning conditions, and county tax exemptions, this neighborhood has become an extreme hotbed of religious centers.

I imagine that this kind of eclectic, diverse, religious cacophony is uniquely American, but maybe that’s not true. Anyway, there is something about all this post-modern pre-modernity that I get a kick out of.

Montgomery County, which abuts Washington, D.C., is a major urban suburb, with a million people. Not all those churches are filled with immigrants, but many of them are. In the county, 32% of the population is foreign-born, according to the 2010 American Community Survey (table B05006). Talk about diversity, here are the top 50 – out of 122 – countries of origin for residents of the county, color-coded by region (click to enlarge):

Montgomery County, Maryland, immigrants, by country of origin (top 50 countries, 88% of all immigrants shown).

Immigrants tip the county’s numbers toward the “traditional” side of the ledger in terms of marriage and family structure: 60% of immigrants here are married, compared with 49% of the U.S.-born adults (B06008); and 51% of immigrant kids live with both parents, compared with 46% of the natives (B05009). But their religious and cultural diversity push the county toward the less-traditional future, ethnicity-wise.

Good site for some research, I reckon.

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Filed under Me @ work

Work product: Women’s ethnic immigration education work patterns

Five years ago Jen’nan Read and I published an article about women’s employment for 12 different ethnic groups in the U.S. In my Gender, Work, and Family seminar the other day we read it, and because of the timing in the course we were talking about developing and framing research questions. We looked at a couple of the images Jen’nan and I used to work through the many patterns we were trying to sort out in the data, and I thought the sequence might be interesting for blog readers, too. (These use data from the 2000 Census, with “employed” meaning any employment in the year 1999.)

The overall employment rates ranged widely, from 65% (Mexican, Asian Indian) to 84% (Filipina). First thing, break the groups out by education:

That helps a little. At the low end of education, employment rates are low. But at the high end, the spread is great — the line isn’t helpful — with high- and low-employment groups all found above 14 years of average education.

Next step was nativity (where they were born) and year of immigration for those born elsewhere. Looking at the high and low groups, there were distinct patterns:

Mexican women are on a diagonal line, showing a temporal progression from recent immigrants having low education and employment rates, back in time to those born in the U.S. (mostly children of earlier immigrants) with higher levels of both. The Asian Indian women are on a vertical line, with high education but low employment rates for recent immigrants, who may have come as spouses of men who had (or were getting) jobs here. The Filipinas, who are mostly labor migrants — that is, they came for their own jobs — are bunched up at high levels of both employment and education regardless of immigration timing.

This must have been the time Jen’nan hit on the title of “One Size Fits All?”, since the stories clearly diverged, and we decided to fit models of employment predictors for each group separately (details are in the paper).

One other image, a nice idea but hard to read, is also sitting in the old folder (click to enlarge):

Here there’s a dot for each ethnic group for each year of immigration. That is, the dot down in the bottom left is Mexican women who immigrated in 2000 (“M0”). The line is a weighted regression line, so it’s the overall relationship between education and employment rates. You see the Mexican women crowded around the lower left; the Filipinas in the top right; and recent Arab, Japanese, Korean and Asian Indian immigrants along the bottom. (The other initials you see are for Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, White, Chinese, Cuban, and Iranian).

When possible, I like to do this kind of descriptive exploration — making progressive slices in the data and looking at the patterns — before building complicated statistical models with a lot of factors at once. If the descriptive image survives the statistical analysis, there’s a chance of not only getting the story right, but being able to explain it.


This is cross-sectional data — that is, what each group is doing in 2000, based on the year they arrived. But it is suggestive of different immigration pathways. I’m not expert on the immigration side, but since I brought it up I should give a few pointers to recent literature on “segmented assimilation,” which focuses on such differences. The idea dates to the early 1990s, maybe this article:

These are more recent, and include reviews of the major research:

Feel free to add suggestions for additional resources in the comments.

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Filed under Me @ work, Research reports