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Median Income Drops Are Tied to Immigrants
The New York Times ^ | December 22, 2001 | STEVEN GREENHOUSE

Posted on 12/21/2001 9:56:38 PM PST by sarcasm

Median household income dropped between 1989 and 1998 in Queens, Brooklyn, Suffolk, Fairfield and many other counties across the nation that experienced a large influx of immigrants, according to new census data.

The data indicate that even as the economy in the New York region and the nation rebounded after the recession of the early 90's, figures for median household income, adjusted for inflation, failed to climb in many counties because of the increase in low-income immigrant workers.

The new data show that in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx — counties with a major increase of immigrants — median income fell sharply. More surprising, though, was the marked income drop in some of the region's wealthiest suburbs, including Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties in New York and Fairfield County in Connecticut.

"Immigrants are jumping immediately into these inner-ring suburbs, which is a change from the past 300 years, when the first generation lived in inner-city neighborhoods," said Robert D. Yaro, executive director of the Regional Plan Association, a civic group that works to improve the economy of the New York region. "This new phenomenon is reducing household incomes in some of the well-to-do suburbs as immigrants move into Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk. It's consistent with the national phenomenon of the suburbanization of poverty."

The new data show that median income also fell in many counties in other states attractive to immigrants, including Los Angeles County and Miami-Dade County.

In Queens, according to the data, the median household income fell to $36,480 in 1998 from $44,938 in 1989, a drop of nearly 19 percent, while in Brooklyn it fell by 18 percent, to $27,556 from $33,762.

In Los Angeles County, where there has been a surge of immigrants from Mexico, median income fell in constant dollars to $37,655 in 1998 from $45,962, a decline of 18 percent, according to the census data.

Andrew A. Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College, prepared the analysis that compared the Census Bureau's median income estimates for 1989 and 1998.

Many economists view the median as the best figure for assessing income trends since half the incomes are above it and half below.

Several economists and sociologists, however, argued that the new census data exaggerated the income drop from 1989 to 1998. They said that although median household income might have fallen in many counties, it did not fall as much as the new data suggested.

These economists questioned the new computer model developed by the Census Bureau, and they noted that there was a higher margin of error in analyzing small areas like counties. In addition, critics argued that the way inflation was adjusted might have exaggerated the drop in median income.

Stephen Kagann, chief economist for Gov. George E. Pataki, said the estimated declines were not credible.

"They use an inappropriate starting point, 1989, which was a cyclical peak, thereby ignoring the deep recession that occurred afterwards," Mr. Kagann said. "And they use an inappropriate inflation adjustment that overestimates inflation and thereby underestimates the growth in income."

He said that if the analysis had taken 1993 as its starting point, when New York's economy was near the bottom, the study would have shown a 7.9 percent increase in median household income statewide.

Jared Bernstein, an economist with the liberal Economic Policy Institute, also said that the new census data painted too gloomy a picture. Pointing to another census study, from last March, he noted that median household income for New York State dropped by 7 percent from 1989 to 1998. He added that a 5 percent increase in income in the two boom years, 1999 and 2000, meant a decline of just 2 percent from 1989 to 2000.

Still, he saw economic problems in the state. "In New York, you've had an amplified version of the expanded income gap we've seen nationally," he said. "Folks in the high end — in law, high tech, financial markets — were in a good place to ride the boom. Meanwhile, the huge supply of low-wage workers who were serving these upper-end workers during the boom didn't do nearly as well."

Mr. Beveridge's analysis estimated that median income in Nassau County fell by 14 percent ($61,096 in 1998 from $71,202 in 1989), 16 percent in Suffolk ($54,008 from $64,580), 11 percent in Westchester ($56,865 from $63,629), 12 percent in Fairfield ($57,389 from 65,583), 12 percent in Hudson County ($35,743 from $40,641), 17 percent in Passaic County ($40,923 from $49,421) and by 10 percent in Essex County ($40,595 from $45,375).

While critics derided the numbers, Mr. Beveridge defended them, saying the arrival of immigrants in Bridgeport, Yonkers, Paterson, Hempstead and other communities could have caused a double-digit decrease in income.

In the preponderance of counties nationwide, median household income rose from 1989 to 1998. The counties with declines were often in metropolitan areas with the greatest surges in immigration, including New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington.

Roger Waldinger, an immigration expert at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the decline in household income could have been fueled by factors having nothing to do with immigration, like the increase in one-member and single- parent households.

Economists have pointed to other reasons for stagnant or declining incomes, including pressure from import competition, the declining power of labor unions, automation that pushes workers out of jobs and poor schools that churn out students who lack job skills.

Dr. Waldinger has conducted studies showing that in many communities, immigration affects income levels and the gap between rich and poor. He said income levels were dragged down by unemployment, not immigrants, who he said usually worked long hours. But many economists say limited skills and inadequate English relegated many immigrants to low-paying jobs

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1 posted on 12/21/2001 9:56:38 PM PST by sarcasm
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To: Joe Hadenuf; doug from upland; dandelion; SocialMeltdown; Mercuria; Carol-HuTex; cribsheet...
2 posted on 12/21/2001 9:57:37 PM PST by sarcasm
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To: sarcasm
As the ratio of low wage earners to high wage earners increases, so too does the rate at which the latter pay in extra taxes.
3 posted on 12/21/2001 10:03:57 PM PST by umgud
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To: sarcasm
The Center for Immigration Studies had published lengthy, documented reports on this months ago!

CIS also published a thick, detailed booklet comparing pairs of otherwise-similar cities - with half being high-immigration cities that invariably came out as far worse off.

IMMIGRATION resource library - with public-health facts of immigration

4 posted on 12/21/2001 10:07:45 PM PST by
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Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

When Bush was campaigning, the media refused to consider the immigrant situation in Texas when it came to education statistics and poverty levels. It obviously makes a huge impact on states with high immigration levels unless you're a Republican running for office.
6 posted on 12/21/2001 10:15:01 PM PST by Cowgirl
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: Cowgirl
Umm, it means that the immigrants are probably INCREASING their median incomes, so it is not a downer for them. And it DOESN'T mean you whitey's are declining in your incomes, so it is not a downer for you.

This is one of those statistics that is actually saying something quite different than the great unwashed think it says. But ya know, gotta hate those wet backs -- can't have logic get in the way.

8 posted on 12/21/2001 10:48:48 PM PST by jlogajan
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

To: Okiegolddust
You obviously DO wish that GORE had won . Just whom ARE you talking about ; who are the "ELITS " ... William Buckley ? Do YOU personally know the people, whom you rail against , or is it just " the party line " ?

And BEFORE you ask, I do NOT think that I can be catagorized as a " neo-con ". I'm a Conservative Republican, who laithes all of these silly , PC, elitist new titles, such as neo-con, and paleo-con .

You may not realize it; however , YOU sound like a MARXIST!

10 posted on 12/21/2001 11:07:40 PM PST by nopardons
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To: Okiegolddust
Oh, you're a PATSIE ! Well since your grand and glorious leader calls you " PEASANTS ", WHAT are you complaining about ?
11 posted on 12/21/2001 11:13:55 PM PST by nopardons
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To: jlogajan
Why are you race baiting?
12 posted on 12/21/2001 11:22:16 PM PST by sarcasm
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

Comment #14 Removed by Moderator

To: Joseph Warren
Meatpackers' Profits Hinge on Pool of Immigrant Labor

CHICAGO, Dec. 20 — The indictment of Tyson Foods Inc., the nation's largest meat processor, on charges that it conspired to smuggle illegal immigrants to work at its plants, is a sign of how dependent the American food and agriculture system has become on foreign-born workers, many of them here illegally.

Because of this heavy reliance, agriculture experts say, a major effort to crack down on the hiring of illegal workers could disrupt the nation's food industry.

"This would really cripple the system," said William Heffernan, professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri who has studied immigrant labor. "In the communities where these plants are located there isn't an alternative work force. They'd have to raise wages and improve the conditions."

Until 15 or 20 years ago, meatpacking plants in the United States were staffed by highly paid, unionized employees who earned about $18 an hour, adjusted for inflation. Today, the processing and packing plants are largely staffed by low-paid non- union workers from places like Mexico and Guatemala. Many of them start at $6 an hour.

The shift in the economics of the food and agriculture industry has made such jobs unappealing to Americans, but highly enticing to immigrants.

Companies like Tyson, Smithfield Foods and Conagra have profited from paying low wages, pushing production lines faster and hiring workers who are much more willing to endure the hazardous conditions of a meat-processing plant, industry experts say.

"This is certainly not unique to Tyson," Professor Heffernan said. "This has been around for a long time in the meat-processing industry. And employers can take advantage of these people because they can threaten to send them back."

The companies can also benefit from high turnover, which means workers often do not qualify for insurance or vacation time.

But high turnover means the companies face constant pressure to find new workers. That pressure may have been at the heart of the actions Tyson is accused of in the indictment, which was unsealed on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The government charged the company and six of its employees with conspiring to transport illegal immigrants across the Mexican border and help them get counterfeit work papers for jobs at more than a dozen Tyson poultry plants. The indictment said that, to meet production and profit goals, Tyson officials would contact local smugglers near its plants to get more workers.

Industry experts said it has long been believed that American food companies recruit in Mexico and knowingly hire illegal workers. Some said the companies advertise on the radio in Mexico, distribute leaflets, show videos and hire immigrant smugglers, or "coyotes."

Eric Schlosser, the author of "Fast Food Nation," which chronicled changes in the food industry, said that the recruiting and hiring of illegal workers had been widespread for some time, and that big companies had used it to their benefit.

"For me, I don't care if those workers are from Mars," Mr. Schlosser said in a telephone interview. "It's the way in which using illegals allows them to do all the other practices, like speeding up the production lines, not listening to workers and having a high turnover rate which reduces the power of the workers."

Professor Heffernan, at the University of Missouri, said it was simple: "It's the race to the bottom; it's just the race to the bottom. Companies started breaking the unions, moving the plants to rural areas and hiring immigrants a long time ago."

The same foreign-born workers harvest fruits and vegetables in Florida and California, they milk cows on giant dairy farms in Wisconsin and Oregon and process and pack potatoes in Idaho.

"Immigrant labor, whether it's legal or illegal, is critical," said Keith Esplin, president of the Potato Growers of Idaho. "Most Mexicans here will have papers, but the farmers won't have any idea. There is real good counterfeit stuff out there."

Of course, because of the widespread use of counterfeit documents, no one knows for sure how many of them are working illegally. But industry and government officials say that, for better or worse, foreign- born workers are now one of the most vital elements in the American food and agriculture system.

About one million farm laborers are on the job at any one time, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. And a government study estimated that nearly 40 percent are illegal. A few years ago, the Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated that about 25 percent of meatpacking workers in the Midwest were probably illegal.

"We have enormous segments of agriculture that are critically dependent on hired farm labor," said Keith Collins, the chief economist at the Agriculture Department. "They are needed, particularly for harvesting perishables, like fruits and vegetables in Florida and California."

Asked whether many of the foreign-born migrant laborers were illegal, Mr. Collins said, Absolutely.

"It's in the hundreds of thousands," he said. "No doubt."

The government, though, has had little success in stemming the flow of illegal immigrants to food and agriculture companies. Federal raids on meatpacking plants sent many illegal workers back to their countries. But it outraged food companies, who complained of disruptions. Civil rights officials accused the government of harassing Mexicans and others from Central America. And Midwestern politicians sometimes complained that slowing down the work at meatpacking plants increased the supply of livestock and thereby harmed hog and cattle farmers, who had already been suffering from low prices for their goods.

The big meatpacking companies said today that they would work to ensure that they were not hiring illegal workers. But they have long maintained that it is a difficult thing to achieve. There is a complicated network of smugglers and a huge trade in the trafficking of fraudulent work documents.

Janet Riley of the American Meat Institute, which represents the big meat processors, said it would be hard to root out illegal immigrants because it was difficult to know how many were working at plants. The institute does not even have estimates on foreign-born workers.

"We don't know the number," Ms. Riley said. "But we do know it's significant."

15 posted on 12/21/2001 11:50:47 PM PST by sarcasm
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Comment #16 Removed by Moderator

To: Joseph Warren
On quite a serious thread on Free Republic tonight they are talking about the latest info (obtained from a captured, relatively high level Al-Qaeda operative) that there are two backpack nukes which have been smuggled into the U.S. by Bin Laden's muslim pals.

Do you have a link?

17 posted on 12/22/2001 12:15:04 AM PST by sarcasm
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To: sarcasm
One of the reasons the median wages dropped was probably that there was a greater increase in the number of low income immigrants than in upper income folk...the median is the "middle" salary.) The average would be add and divide)

So, this statistic could mean that these counties have proportionately more low income workers that they did, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the higher incomes dropped (inflation adjusted)

It also means that some areas that used to be rich now probably have a much better supply of people to mow lawns, flip hamburgers, etc. But, social services, education, police departments, must be impacted by the influx. These rich counties can't have it both ways...maybe the silver lining here is that those who "benefit" from low income immigrants will see the objections most sane people have, now that it's impacting their own towns!

18 posted on 12/22/2001 12:29:01 AM PST by grania
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To: Joseph Warren
Good evening, newbie . I suggest that YOU don't bait me; even though you sugar coated it . Back handed compliments are really insults .

Who is Shirley Q Liquor ?

Bridgeport, Conn. had already lost a great many / most white people, by 1989 ; so if immigrants displaced anyone there, they were blacks. Norwalk , Conn. - ditto. Stamford is a bit of everything, with some VERY upmarket homes, upper middle class, to the likes of William F. Buckley.

The study AND this article , are somewhat misleading. It just helps to prove that stats can be made to " support " any side of an argument.

20 posted on 12/22/2001 12:32:00 AM PST by nopardons
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