Thomas Sowell on How Migration Can Create Jobs, Not Take Them Away

Thomas Sowell is a Black American conservative. I’ve started reading his Race and Culture, whose title suggests it should be some wretched Nazi screed, but which isn’t. Sowell believes that peoples are shaped by their history and the environments in which they were formed, and thus different people can develop different skills and attitudes to education, commerce and so on. These may be retained by those peoples when they immigrate to a new country. In the chapter on ‘Race and Migration’, he describes how various immigrant groups came to dominate particular areas of the economy in places like Latin America, Africa, and Australia. For example, European immigrants came to dominate trade and industry in many South American countries because the indigenous landowning elites looked down on those sectors. Their preferred occupations were in the profession, such as law or medicine, or in government. He discusses how the Lebanese similarly became important in trade and industry in West Africa, and the Indians, particularly Gujaratis in East Africa. He notes that immigrant success in these areas is often resented, as if the industries the immigrants create somehow happened naturally and the immigrants somehow seized control of them over the indigenous peoples. This was the mentality of the Ugandans when they expelled their Asian population in 1972.

Sowell doesn’t believe in ‘political correctness’ or multiculturalism, and states that often the association between an immigrant group and higher crime rates or poor sanitation really isn’t one of perception and stereotype. He is also critical of multiculturalism as it can seal ethnic minority groups off from the skills, education and values of the mainstream society, skills and attitudes that would allow them to successfully integrate and compete. But he also makes the point that immigration does not necessarily mean that immigrant groups take jobs away from the indigenous or host society. Indeed, the may actually create them. He writes

‘In addition to real costs entailed by immigrants, there are often also false charges that they are a burden to the native-born population, in situations where they are not. However, sometimes there are hidden costs which may be different from what is charged, but significant nonetheless. A common charge against immigrants, for example, is that they take jobs from native-born workers. But there is no fixed number of jobs, from which those going to immigrants can be subtracted. More producers coming into an economy mean more output and more demand, which in turn creates more jobs.

It is an empirical question whether the additional jobs created as a result of the immigrants economic activities equals or exceeds the number of jobs the immigrants themselves take. It is by no means out of the question that native workers may have more jobs available after immigrants arrive. Studies of the large influx of Mexican immigrants into southern California, for example, showed no adverse impact on either the unemployment rate or the labour force participation rate of Blacks in that region, who might be competing for similar jobs. In fact, job trends for Blacks were more favourable in this area heavily impacted by Mexican immigrants than in the nation at large. But while there has apparently been an increase in the total number of jobs, there has been a correspondingly lower pay scale, as the large influx of immigrants has lessened the need for employers to raise wages in order to attract sufficient workers.’ (p,.43).

Which is all very interesting. You often hear the claim that immigrants are taking jobs, and the right are claiming that wages are lower because of foreign immigration. But you don’t hear that immigration can create jobs, and that’s an important omission.

Perhaps it should be made more often in response to the anti-immigration brigade.


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9 Responses to “Thomas Sowell on How Migration Can Create Jobs, Not Take Them Away”

  1. Brian Burden Says:

    “The mentality of the Ugandans” Please! NOT the mentality of their first post-independence prime minister Milton Obote, who encouraged ethnic Africans to respect and admire the Asian population as wealth-creators and enablers (according to an Asian exile in one of my classes). This was the mentality of Idi Amin and probably of Edward Heath who, with a little help from MI5, instigated Amin’s coup after Obote disrespected him (over Rhodesia) at a Commonwealth conference. The result – thousands of Africans murdered; thousands of Asians driven out to an unwelcoming Britain. All because Heath had a tantrum. That man had blood on his hands.

    • beastrabban Says:

      Mea culpa, Brian, and thanks for the correction. I think you’ve mentioned this before, that Milton Obote promoted respect for the Asians and that his overthrow by Amin was due to Heath having a tantrum over Obote’s slight at a commonwealth conference. This sounds like the kind of thing Lobster publishes – real conspiracies by the western powers to bring down anyone or anything that challenges them covertly. It sounds well worth looking into.

    • beastrabban Says:

      I checked what you said about British involvement in Amin’s wretched coup in Rory Cormac’s book on British covert operations and dirty tricks, ‘Disrupt and Deny’. I could only find this paragraph on page 185:
      ‘Meanwhile, rumours circulated about SIS officer working with the CIA to help mercenaries elsewhere in Africa, including southern Sudan. If true, such operations would unlikely have had official blessing, initially at least, given that mercenary activity deeply concerned Harold Wilson who worried what would happen if right-wing soldiers of fortune ever turned their attention to a coup back home. Perhaps Edward Heath, prime minister from June 1970, was more amenable. Any mercenary or covert activity in southern Sudan may have also related to suspected SIS involvement in the 1971 Ugandan coup, in which Idi Amin ousted Prime Minister Milton Obote. An SIS officer, Beverly Bernard, allegedly supported the coup by coordinating these same southern Sudanese rebels with whom Amin had affinity and connections’.
      It’s not exactly confirmation,, but it doesn’t rule it out either. And given the nature of espionage and covert ops, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the full incriminating evidence is very carefully hidden.

      • Brian Burden Says:

        There are stronger arguments for assuming Heath’s involvement in Amin’s coup. I set them forth, but wordpress would not accept my post.

  2. Brian Burden Says:

    There is a good circumstantial case. Let me try small instalments! One point is the suspiciously warm reception Amin’s coup received in the UK media – the Daily Mirror described Amin as “this thoroughly nice man” – something Private Eye never allowed the Mirror to forget so long as Amin was in power.

    • beastrabban Says:

      This is fascinating, and I’m sorry that WordPress wouldn’t accept your post. Are there any books or magazine articles which cover this?

  3. Mark Pattie Says:

    I wonder if Sowell believes the whole “Bell Curve” BS? How does that wretched theory differentiate between Black folks. Would African Americans be seen as more intelligent than Ghanaians, themselves being seen as more intelligent than Ugandans or something?

    • beastrabban Says:

      He doesn’t believe in any racial connection with intelligence, as he lays out in his book ‘Intellectuals and Race’, although he seems to have a favourable attitude to ‘The Bell Curve’. I think he believes that what’s holding Black people back are attitudes against educational and professional achievement in the Black community itself.

  4. Que? Says:

    I don’t mind Thomas Sowell. However, I think he should stick with certain topics like economics, American sociology politics and some American history (he’s good at that) and not with international geopolitics and world history (not very good).

    I will say, he defo doesn’t act in bad faith.

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