Immigration

Mexican Immigrants are a Bargain for the Welfare State

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One of the most potent arguments against relaxing U.S. immigration policies, especially toward countries south of the border, is the fear that importing poor foreigners will mean more strain on the welfare state. But a new Cato study

using the most recent census data has found that compared to low-income native born, foreigners are a bargain. Conducted by Leighton Ku and Brian Bruen of George Washington University, the study finds: 

Low-income non-citizen immigrants, including adults and children, are generally less likely to receive public benefits than those who are native-born. Moreover, when non-citizen immigrants receive benefits, the value of benefits they receive is usually lower than the value of benefits received by those born in the United States. The combination of lower average utilization and smaller average benefits indicates that the overall cost of public benefits is substantially less for low-income non-citizen immigrants than for comparable native-born adults and children.

Go here for the whole study.

A couple of observations:

One: Although these findings are consistent with many previous studies, it is at odds with those of restrictionist outfits such as the Center for Immigration "Studies." Why? Because these outfits include naturalized citizens in their data. But if naturalized citizens use the same benefits as the native born, then that's an argument against naturalization, not against immigration per se. (I am not endorsing this, just pointing out the logical limits of how far anti-immigrant organizations can stretch their case.)

Two: As foreigners move into the lower class, Cato's Dan Griswold brilliantly pointed out here, the native-born move into the middle class. Cheaper goods and services due to foreign labor boost the real-wages of all Americans, of course. But a foreign-born lower class also means that the native born no longer have to do backbreaking, menial work. That's  because their native language and other cultural skills become relatively scarcer, hence commanding a better premium in the labor market. They get pushed up into supervisory jobs that require more customer interaction, for example. (I discuss this point at greater length here.) This expanded income mobility of the native born means that they consume less welfare too.

In short, it is far cheaper for the country to have a foreign born lower-class not only because it consumes less welfare than the native born, but also because it lowers the welfare use by the native born.

So, I say, let 'em in: It's a win-win-win.

Update: David Friedman just informed me that he made an argument identical to the one above about the foreig-born fueling the class mobility of natives in his Machinery of Freedom. Money quote:

The new immigrants will drive down the wages of unskilled labor, hurting some of the present poor. At the same time, the presence of millions of foreigners will make the most elementary acculturation, even the ability to speak English, a marketable skill; some of the poor will be able to leave their present unskilled jobs to find employment as foremen of 'foreign' work gangs or front men for 'foreign' enterprises.

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  1. Dalmia, go back to India and import all the Mexicans you want. We don’t need them in the United States. Maybe if you had some history in this nation you would want to protect it from being destroyed by hordes of 3rd world savages, but you don’t.

    1. When I read something like this comment above I hope that the person who wrote it has had a nice long life already.

      1. It’s a well-known fact that Chris Mallory sexually abuses his daughter.

    2. MEXICANS = ALMOST AS BAD AS THE IRISH

  2. So what about the dramatically increasing unemployment among low skilled American workers? Will they magically move up to the middle class too? I’m looking forward to it.

  3. ^^^ BROWN HORDEZZZZZZZZZ DEY TOOK URR JOBZZZZZZZZ^^^

    1. The racism accusations are tiresome. The simple fact is that the supply of AMERICAN low skilled workers outweighs the demand. How the hell would importing more low skilled workers make things better?

      1. Go find out how many “low-income” Americans will sign up to pick produce in Michigan and Ohio and get back to me.

        The answer is perilously close to zero. Mexicans? They’ll work. And pay taxes. Bring ’em in.

        1. “Go find out how many ‘low-income’ Americans will sign up to pick produce in Michigan and Ohio and get back to me.

          The answer is perilously close to zero. Mexicans? They’ll work. And pay taxes. Bring ’em in.”

          You think Mexicans are stupid enough to keep on picking produce after they figure out they can get a check for sitting on the couch and watching Oprah?

        2. pay them a decent wage instead of what you can get away with paying illegals, and you might find quite a few Americans willing to work.

          1. Talk about leftist bullshit…

            1. try making an argument. Nothing leftist about it. When someone makes more on unemployment than working for the $5/hr that Juan gets paid, it is what it is.

          2. The Mexicans think it’s a decent wage.

            Or do you think they are stupid?

        3. No ones offering those jobs to low skill Americans–Citizens are more expensive to employ than illegals.

          Is that so hard to grasp?

          Shikha gets it–she WANTS the US to have a non-citizen underclass to do this kind of work. That’s what she’s advocating.

      2. The racism “accusation” was directed at Mallory whose comment can’t be interpreted in any other way. Your position that Americans somehow deserve a job over a non-american is the jobzzz portion of my comment. Also, it may not be racist but it’s not far off.

        1. Because our country is obligated to take care of non-citizens? I couldn’t disagree more.

          1. Well the thing is, I divide the world into two halves: people who trade with me and people who steal from me. The fact that Billy Ray the white trash shithead with the “bad back” is an American doesn’t mean he’s entitled to my money. Juan the fruit picker is literally infinitely more productive then Billy Ray, because Billy Ray is a layabout piece of shit.

            1. and in different ways, both Billy Ray and Juan, not to mention Donquarius and his four baby mammas, are ALL stealing from you. Your differentiation is a matter of degrees.

              1. How is Juan stealing from me? If he works and pays taxes and doesn’t collect benefits, he isn’t stealing from me at all.

                1. when Juan gets into a wreck with you or someone else covered by your insurance company but turns out he’s not covered, he’s stealing from you.
                  When Juan gets sick, or his wife/kids get sick, or his wife has a baby and no one picks up the tab, he’s stealing from you.
                  When Juan gets the kitchen job instead of a native teen or low-skilled person, he’s stealing from you because the low-skilled native stays on unemployment.
                  And “doesn’t collect benefits” is a nice presumption that may or may not play out.
                  He’s not the total freeloader like Billy Ray, but he’s no shining knight, either. Like I said, degrees. For my money, I get a hell of a lot more irritated with the sorriness of the Billy Rays.

                  1. “When Juan gets the kitchen job instead of a native teen or low-skilled person, he’s stealing from you because the low-skilled native stays on unemployment.”

                    Dey tuk ur jobz!

      3. I find the racism far more tiresome.

    2. AYY TUK RRRJERBZ!!

      1. ER TERK ER DURRR!

        1. DER DURRR!

          1. DER’UDDERRRR!

  4. Article has a faulty premise: that Americans are looking for low skilled work. Dae’Quan and Billy Ray Bobby in their project apartment and trailer respectively, both cashing their government checks, aren’t going to work in the hot sun picking crops. That’s beneath them. Which is why businesses hire illegal immigrants: the people in this country who should work that kind of job based on their actual market value consider themselves above that.

    I see this a lot from policy wonks. They’re hardworking people, they went to school, they’re meticulous and detail oriented. They have a really hard time groking the concept that there are tens of millions of people in this country, who would rather apply for benefits and game the system then work an honest job. They’d much rather live in squalor in a shithole public housing project or Section 8 hovel then work for a living.

    1. lap83 – read this

      1. Even if it’s true that everyone who is here legally is “above” manual labor, what makes you think our entitlement culture wouldn’t spread to illegals? What makes you think it doesn’t attract them?

        1. Because Mexicans are immune to the lures of the welfare state. Nothing ethically stereotypical about this fact.

        2. Even if it’s true that everyone who is here legally is “above” manual labor, what makes you think our entitlement culture wouldn’t spread to illegals? What makes you think it doesn’t attract them?
          _________________

          I never said that it wouldn’t. There’s plenty of Mexicans on the dole, and plenty of natives who do scrape out a living without leeching off the rest of us.

          But it is an individual’s character and work ethic that count. If someone is pulling their weight, I don’t care what language they speak. You’re either a maker or a taker.

          1. “But it is an individual’s character and work ethic that count. If someone is pulling their weight, I don’t care what language they speak.”

            Then I suppose you disagree with the premise of the article which is entitled “Mexican Immigrants are a Bargain for the Welfare State”, and then supports that premise with phrases like “Low-income non-citizen immigrants, including adults and children, are generally less likely…”, and mentions nary a word about individuals.

          2. But the central premise, which I entirely agree with, only points out the faulty false choice that the Cato study implies:

            But a new Cato study using the most recent census data has found that compared to low-income native born, foreigners are a bargain

            Yes, so? Low Income foreign born may not leech the welfare state as much (although it would be interesting to note downstream effects, for example, how many of the current low income native born are progeny of foreign born immigrants?). Moreover, it doesn’t suggest that foreign born have no social welfare cost, just that they’re less than native born. That doesn’t mean that the foreign born in any way mitigate the social welfare costs of the native born, and may possibly exacerbate those social welfare costs of the native born by competing for jobs within industries that low-skilled native borns might otherwise enter.

            1. That doesn’t mean that the foreign born in any way mitigate the social welfare costs of the native born, and may possibly exacerbate those social welfare costs of the native born by competing for jobs within industries that low-skilled native borns might otherwise enter.

              Not to mention the increasing ethnic and social balkanization that’s being constantly enabled by our elites.

              100-150 years ago, you could make the case that high immigration was a net good for the country because low-skilled labor was in extremely high demand, and the ills of mass society were largely confined to a few big cities.

              But that was an industrial/agricultural era with a far smaller government than we have now, which didn’t possess a cornucopia of competing special interests looking to keep hold of their staked-out welfare state territory to the greatest extent possible, regardless of its impact on the nation at large. It’s a lot more difficult to make a case for the positive contributions of increasing immigration in a country where 24% of the economy is wrapped up in government spending, and probably 80% or more of the population is dependant on government welfare in some form, whether it’s a social security check, a third-tier clerk at the local university, or a defense contractor job, many of whom have been conditioned to believe that their own ethnic chauvinism is something to be celebrated and subsidized by the state.

          3. But it is an individual’s character and work ethic that count. If someone is pulling their weight, I don’t care what language they speak. You’re either a maker or a taker.

            An individual’s character and work ethic don’t exist in a vacuum. People respond to incentives. The welfare state has provided people with an incentive to be idle while foreign born who don’t qualify for such incentives do the work that the native born would in the absence of such incentives.

            1. Which is literally exactly what I said in my first post of the thread.

              1. I know. I’m just echoing the sentiment and amplifying that the incentives to be idle are exactly what is driving the immigration boom, rather than a surplus of low skilled jobs relative to available labor supply.

                1. Exactly, and it can’t be said enough.

                  I will say this though: immigration hawks are usually the same people who want more reform of the welfare system. The immigration “problem” is driven entirely by how easy it is to get on the dole and stay there. If work is optional, millions will opt out.

  5. “Cheaper goods and services due to foreign labor boost the real-wages of all Americans, of course. But a foreign-born lower class also means that the native born no longer have to do backbreaking, menial work.”

    Exactly. We need a few more brown people to work the plantations and move us into the middle class. I think this model has been proven to work pretty well for the native born.

    1. Which is also why we must keep the brown people in a leagal gray area. If you give them rights and start to empower them, they’re likely to start asking for things they don’t deserve. Like a fair wage, health care, vacation time. You give them any kind of freedom to move into the middle class, and they will. Suddenly, you’ve got to work again. Republicans go crazy and want to keep them out entirely, while democrats want to give them full citizenship. Both of these are bad ideas.

  6. Center for Immigration “Studies.”

    scare quotes pwned

  7. “”””Low-income non-citizen immigrants, including adults and children, are generally less likely to receive public benefits than those who are native-born””‘

    So lets make these non-citizens into citizens so the can not only get more taxpayer benefits but vote in politicians who will give them more benefits?

    If Shikha so loves being around low wage people without political power then why didn’t she stay in India, there are plenty of low caste people there? The place should be a paradise with hundreds of millions of low wage workers with no economic power.

    1. Hah, good point! Fuck those Hispanics (and Indians) that are poor and want to improve their lot in life!

      1. because that’s exactly what was said

      2. Why don’t they improve their life where they are? There is nothing magical about the USA. And since Reason is always saying how wonderful low wage workers are to the economy then Mexico and India should be great places to live.

        1. This is Tulpa-level density. Congrats!

          1. I notice you don’t actually have an argument so it must be too dense for you.

            1. Seriously?

              Look at where the US ranks compared to Mexico and India and you might understand how statement such as:

              “And since Reason is always saying how wonderful low wage workers are to the economy then Mexico and India should be great places to live.”

              might be considered… well… dumb.

              1. And who’s fault is it that Mexico sucks even worse than here? I’m tempted to blame the Mexicans.

                1. “And who’s fault is it that Mexico sucks even worse than here? I’m tempted to blame the Mexicans.”

                  I’ll remember that next time you bitch or complain about Obama or anything related to the US govt. since you’re all of a sudden a collectivist.

                  1. As a collective, peoples always get the government we deserve. We are getting it good and hard right now.

                    1. “As a collective, peoples always get the government we deserve. We are getting it good and hard right now.”

                      …and it’s every bit as much your fault as the individuals who voted for Obama?

              1. 18, baby!

                1. Hey, we’re still number 1 in incarcerations!

              2. Its obvious that this index is garbage since it rates Mexico (108) and India (21) lower then the US (3) on labor freedom when you can hire labor much cheaper in both Mexico and India and basically do what you want with them.

                Does anyone actually read these studies before they post them?

                Its like the CATO one which ignores the ten million plus with illegal status which would prevent them from getting government benefits so obviously this effects the results Making these illegal’s legal would greatly increase the number getting taxpayer paid for benefits.

                But as long as you write up some fake conclusions in the introduction then it all looks good.

                1. Labor freedom isn’t simply about where it’s cheaper. It’s about the costs involved (both financial and nonfinancial) here in Brazil, labor is cheaper than in the US, but the cost of hiring, maintaining, and firing an employee is horrendous.

                  1. Yeah, like Mexico and India have stricter labor regulations then the US.

                    1. The system of horrendous goverenment regulations regarding just about every economic activity in India is well known,

                      …but appearantly not by everyone.

                    2. And these regulations are mostly ignored which is well known by everyone except by you.

                      So you are saying that this report is based on theory not on actual practice.

                    3. You’ve never lived in a developing country, have you.

                      India hellish system of laws an regulations is what makes it poor.

            2. You don’t have an argument either, you merely changed the subject to “their” country.

              To think that labor SHOULDN’T be mobile is to be a protectionist/racist.

        2. Also, you’re correct that there’s nothing ‘magical’ about the US other than the fact that, economically speaking, we’re much further ahead of Mexico in terms of freedom and opportunity… but you knew that already, because you’re not at all dense, right?

          1. See my answer above, your study just like the CATO isn’t worth the electrons its posted with.

            1. So… you think the US is less free economically than India or Mexico?

              You’re not very bright.

              1. Are you going to bring anything to the argument besides insults? What next, are you going to call me a NAZI or even better Hitler?

                1. I’ll take you’re lack of an argument as a sign that you’ve conceded the point. The US is, in fact, more economically free than most countries… hence the desire for foreigners to come here by any means possible.

                  1. Or its because of benefits they get once they are legal as shown by the CATO report.

                    1. you are talking about countries that tend toward socialism and have a welfare state. If the immigrants like welfare so much, why do they leave their homeland for a strange culture and uncertainty when they havea far more accessible welfare state without ever going anywhere.

              2. I think we are fast approaching third-world levels of economic oppression.

                Unlike the third world, American bureaucrats have tremendous resources and technology at their disposal. It is far easier to fly under the government radar in much of the third world.

                1. “I think we are fast approaching third-world levels of economic oppression.”

                  CONGRATULATIONS!

                  THIS IS THE “‘QUOTE’ OF THE DAY!”

                  YOU WIN NOTHING. THIS IS THE WORST ECONOMIC OPPRESSION THAT YOU HAVE EVER KNOWN. EVEN WORSE THAN WHEN YOU WAITED BEHIND THAT WOMAN WHO BOUGHT HER CHILD CHOCOLATE MILK WITH HER EBT CARD.

        3. Why should an individual be a slave to the actions of those around him that limit his opportunity in that place? Why should he be prohibited from seeking opportunity in a place where more exists?

    2. Also looking at the CATO paper it appears that

      Naturalized citizens use Medicaid more then citizens born in the USA

      Children with non-citizen parents use Medicaid/Chip more then children of citizens born in the USA

      The place where “immigrants” use less then born in the USA citizens is with non-citizen which would include illegal’s who would have difficulty getting on Medicaid or Chip. If you made them legal they would probably use these program more then born in the USA citizens just like naturalized citizens do.

      1. Yeah, it seems like an effort to massage the data to match a foregone conclusion and then pose the question as a false choice between more lower welfare cost non-citizens or more higher welfare cost citizens. The analysis fails to reach the obvious conclusion that making the non-citizen a citizen will actually drive up net welfare costs, and likely substantially.

        Ultimately, I don’t have a problem with immigration. I have a problem with the social safety net having turned into a hammock. If we eradicate the welfare state and native borns starve while foreign borns prosper, I have no issue with the people around me being a little darker than before.

        1. “it seems like an effort to massage the data to match a foregone conclusion”

          That’s exactly what it is. I’m pro-immigration. You expand the economy when you expand the population. The welfare state is the problem. However, It seems to me if your going to dither about who cost more or less, then naturalized citizens should be included in the immigration calculation. Also, this “As foreigners move into the lower class……the native-born move into the middle class.” does not seem to be happening to me but whatever. While I agree with Shika’s position on immigration, she really doesn’t seem to be capable of writing about it objectively. I don’t think that’s a revelation to anyone.

      2. Not being a citizen does not mean you are illegal

        1. No, but illegals are included in this number.

  8. “Mexican Immigrants are a Bargain for the Welfare State”

    So they are willing to take less welfare than Americans. And that’s a good thing how?

  9. This ought to be very simple. If you are not a citizen or otherwise do not have some kind of legal status you do not get public benefits, period. And you do not get citizenship if you or your family are likely to be a public charge. Do that, and folks can spend more time on studies that actually tell us something we don’t know.

    1. “If you are not a citizen or otherwise do not have some kind of legal status you do not get public benefits, period. And you do not get citizenship if you or your family are likely to be a public charge.”

      I thought legal immigration worked on this premise already.

  10. this smacks of the paternalism I usually expect from the left – the implication that Mexicans are inherently incapable, either unwilling or too stupid, of following the immigration system like the Indians and all the others. Let’s expect the least from them and pretend to be surprised when that’s what we get.

    1. You mean this system?

      http://reason.org/files/a87d15…..116079.pdf

      Gee… I wonder why Mexican choose to trek through the desert as opposed to Indians who don’t quite have such an option beinig on the other side of the fucking world.

      1. because that’s exactly what I said.

        But your argument that proximity forces them to go the illegal route is compelling.

        1. No, my argument is about incentives.

          Let me slow it down so you can wrap your head around it.

          Mexicans cross the boarder illegally, because the cost in money and time to come here legally combined with the likelihood of being rejected means it easier to simplly risk death in the middle of the desert than to follow the legal process. Make sense now?

          1. they cross the border because there is very little disincentive to doing so, and because a good many of them have no intention of settling here permanently. Other immigrants view the process differently.

            1. so if a good many have no intention of settling here permentantly, then there is little procession from foreign born low welfare to naturalized higher welfare. If it were easier to move across the border for work, the incentive to naturalize would be reduced.

            2. they cross the border because there is very little disincentive to doing so,

              How stupid can you get.

              The disincentive isn’t in crossing the border – there’s armed border guards, lack of water, etc. to deal with.

              The fact is it is simply a matter of odds. These people would rather RISK DEATH than wait in line for TWENTY YEARS only to get rejected.

              Keep shoving legal residents into colleges they don’t really belong in, and price them out of the labor market with minimum wage, and you’ll keep on incentivizing illegal immigration because the work obviously needs doing or they wouldn’t be in the jobs.

              An illegal Mexican will wash dishes for $5 an hour and won’t rat you out because he’s illegal. A citizen will bitch and moan about how he should be getting more than $9 an hour and will rat you out for any accident of his own doing because he’s a citizen and has the opportunity to game the system. The more labor protection that are created, the more incentives are created for illegal workers.

              Prohibition doesn’t work.

    2. Why do you become an “IT’S TEH LAW!” guy on this one issue? Do you make this argument when we’re talking about drugs or gambling or prostitution or breaking some stupid economic regulation?

  11. Expanding on this idea, if we could get the Canadian middle class to start immigrating to the US it could move the middle class into 1%er territory. It’s the magic immigration pyramid economy!

    1. Multiplier effect!

    2. There was demand for their labor, you would be correct. But you’re an idiot.

      1. “There was demand for their labor, you would be correct. But you’re an idiot.”

        Sure, moron. Increasing supply raises prices. Try again.

  12. if you think its hard for libertarianism to get traction or respect now, wait until 3 to 12 million Illegals get citizenship by way of amnesty…………they will not vote libertarian, or libertarian-ish……..this country is screwed the way it is…it would only get worse with amnesty…………..

  13. How would an Aussie illegally migrate to the USA… i wanna piss off all the LAOLs here….

  14. The reason they don’t access welfare in large numbers is because they can’t. Because they’re afraid to do so. The same reason they don’t complain when paid low wages. The same reason they don’t complain about dangerous working conditions. The same reason they don’t complain about dangerous housing. They’re afraid.

    And Shikha wants them to stay that way.

    That’s what she’s advocating. A low skilled worker underclass of ‘illegals’ that have no access to any but the most basic civil and human rights. Because those are the people who are a bargain for the welfare state. Maybe we can call them ‘untouchables’.

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