Immigration

The Case for Day Laborers

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Loyola Law School professor Gregg Kettles has posted a very interesting article to the Social Sciences Research Network examining the history and economics of day labor markets, ranging from the mid-19th century New York dock workers who would "shape up" each morning to the frequently demonized Mexican (and Central and South American) immigrants who make up much of today's day labor force. In Kettles' view, state and local governments today are pursuing two equally flawed strategies. The first is to exclude day workers entirely, using loitering and vagrancy laws, traffic regulations, and the like to push them off of public property. The second strategy is to shelter them in indoor work stations that double as job placement/recruitment centers. But Kettles' research points to a very different option, "one rarely emphasized to local government policy makers: day laborers should largely be left alone and allowed to solicit work on the street." From the paper's abstract:

The strategy of exclusion ignores economic theory, which justifies the presence of day labor markets in public space. Exclusion also overlooks the nation's rich history of allowing day laborers and other temporary workers to use the sidewalk to solicit work. Exclusion further ignores fundamental economic and demographic changes that have increased demand for day laborers—whether illegal immigrants or not—and made public sidewalks the most efficient way to match these workers with potential employers. Finally, the strategy of exclusion is at odds with the contemporary push toward the "New Urbanism," with its sidewalk-intense uses, and the character of today's suburbs, which are increasingly integrated. The strategy of shelter similarly misunderstands the advantages offered by the street to day laborers. Like those who in earlier advocated sheltering the homeless and helping them find work, advocates of sheltering day laborers exhibit good intentions. But they risk turning street entrepreneurs into dependents. The defects of exclusion and shelter point to a third way to respond to day labor—one that gives them a place on the street.

Whole thing here. Read Reason's extensive immigration coverage here.

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  1. Finally, the strategy of exclusion is at odds with the contemporary push toward the “New Urbanism,” with its sidewalk-intense uses, and the character of today’s suburbs, which are increasingly integrated.

    That’s an interesting point. Well, to me, anyway.

    One of the central concepts behind New Urbanism is that settlements with a greater amount of actively-used public space (eg, sidewalks that people actually use in their daily lives, rather than sidewalks that they could use, in theory, but don’t actually provide useful or attractive connections for pedestrians) are going to promote spontaneous interactions between people.

    This is usually pointed out in a social sense – someone on a front porch just behind a busy sidewalk is more likely to chat with a passing neighbor, for example. It’s interesting to see this pointed out in terms of economic relationships.

  2. First they kick the night-laborers off the street, and now this…

  3. Typical leftwingnut response to a problem. Ignore it and it will go away.

  4. No Lone Dickhead yet?

  5. NewUrbanism is plot by the LiberalRacists!

  6. He’s getting his SelfReferentialHyperlinks all ready, Zeb.

  7. I had an argument recently about this topic with some other people. They were complaining about how todays jobs can’t provide a high school graduate with a decent living anymore, and claiming the debt crisis was due to poor people needing to living on credit in order to support themselves.

    I pointed out that Mexican day laborers somehow manage to make a living and have extra cash to send home to family.

    They responded by complaining about how the Mexican day laborers took jobs away from Americans and drove down wages.

    A non sequitor since the argumnent was over wether you can live on day-laborer wages.

    The point is that Americans live beyond their means. They refuse to make economic sacrifices such as sharing a house or apartment, cooking their own meals, not spending money on beer, and taking the bus.

    Most white middle-class Americans today find the idea of sharing a bedroom as an adult unthinkable. But it’s common place in much of the world.

  8. I pointed out that Mexican day laborers somehow manage to make a living and have extra cash to send home to family.

    Though, you got to include in your calculations that a good chunk of the day laborers are living rather simply (and doing stuff as you say like communal living arrangements to save money) and the money they are sending home goes a lot further wherever it ends up.

    There’s a distinct difference between that and supporting a family that you live with, even if you cohabitate with other people as well.

    And the whole ideal of ‘middle classness’ is rather defined by the ability to *not* have to cohabitate with people outside your nuclear or even extended family.

  9. “But they risk turning street entrepreneurs into dependents. The defects of exclusion and shelter point to a third way to respond to day labor-one that gives them a place on the street”.

    Yeah. Better they piss in the street and stand in the rain-entrepreneurs all.

    What bullshit.

  10. “not spending money on beer, and taking the bus.”

    I take the bus. It’s why I have beer money.

  11. “Most white middle-class Americans today find the idea of sharing a bedroom as an adult unthinkable.”

    But have you SEEN my whife???

  12. O what a tangled web we weave when we either can’t follow the money or are perhaps trying to take a taste.

  13. I fully support the rights of MexicanImmigrants to stand on the sidewalk eating their hideous LeguminousFoods, so long as UpstandingCitizens have an equal right to go on the sidewalk and beat them like SoggyPinatas. I also admit I have a good time watching CalienteLatinas shaking their asses on the sidewalk on my way to work every day.

  14. “one rarely emphasized to local government policy makers: day laborers should largely be left alone and allowed to solicit work on the street.”

    There’s some weird juju that goes through most folk’s minds, where they cannot concede to the notion that folks who cause no harm to anyone or anything should be left the fuck alone. Even when they do something as crass as looking for a job.

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