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Data: Politicians immigration error

March 24, 2016

Labor-Supply-of-Undocumented-Immigrants-Borjas-2016

Donald Trump launched his Presidential campaign in June 2015 with the insult heard ’round the world:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Trump missed the biggest stereotype of all—undocumented workers work and they work a lot.

Research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that undocumented workers tend to work more hours in a year than native born workers. On top of that, undocumented workers work longer hours at every wage level, according the to studies author, George Borjas:

This finding is consistent with a frequent conjecture that is made about undocumented immigration— that “undocumented immigrant men come to the United States to work.” It is clear that the data strongly support this conjecture. Undocumented immigrant men … work regardless of the surrounding economic conditions.

Just look at this graph adapted from the study (I overlayed two graphs, added some color, flipped the axes). It shows native born men (the red) can’t be bothered to work at low wages. At $5 an hour, the average native born man would work less than 20 hours a week. In contrast undocumented men work an average of 30 hours a week at $5 an hour.

To get native born men up to 30 hours a week, the wage needs to be more than $8.00 an hour. Yet, at $8.00 a hour, undocumented men work and average of $30 a week.

Looks like Trump is wrong on this one. Research shows that undocumented men come to the U.S. to work.

Labor-Supply-of-Undocumented-Immigrants-Borjas-2016

The scatter diagrams show the relation between the average annual hours worked (including non-workers) and the hourly wage of a particular age-education-year group, using the 1994-2014 CPS-ASEC files.

  
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Discuss this article

Tim Lyman May 3, 2016

So the takeaway is that Americans won’t work for less than the federally mandated minimum wage, but illegal aliens will. I guess if you’re the sort of scumbag who wants to exploit people by paying them $5 an hour, or the sort of scumbag who uses illegal aliens to drive down American’s wages, that’s great news. None of this, however, disproves Trump’s statement. Show me statistics that illegal aliens commit less crime per capita than Americans if that’s what you’re trying to sell.

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