Posts Tagged ‘Race and Culture’

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

July 6, 2022

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.