Dr. X - Illegal Immigration And Unemployment genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Illegal immigration is a more complicated, multi-layered issue than the heated words in this political debate often suggest. I really don't have a side — just some observations, some concerns and a few opinions. So, don't take this as a "pro-illegal" immigration position on my part, but among the 18 states that have set new records with historically low rates of joblessness, one finds California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

This data runs against the grain of resentment that can be found among many of those who are extremely troubled by illegal immigration. Of course, these record low rates of joblessness don't prove that illegal immigration doesn't take ANY jobs from Americans. If, however, one's contention is that illegal immigration takes jobs from legals and from American citizens in the aggregate, you've either got to collect some data and start testing that hypothesis or you will be arguing entirely on the basis of fanciful theory — something that is particularly suspect when the argument is associated with resentment. At the very least, it is difficult to look at data like this and declare that illegal immigration has had a significant negative effect on the employment prospects of legals and Americans.

Many economic and cultural issues like the immigration issue involve dynamic subtleties that don't lend themselves to simple bifurcation into all good versus all bad positions. The primitive side of the human mind wants to simplify things in just this way because, for a variety of reasons, a world in which our wants, desires and opinions are unassailably pure is more manageable and bearable. In service of achieving such simplicity, however, the truth has a tendency to get back-written to fit assumptions that either aren't supported by data or are supported by fudged and cherry-picked data.

Previously, for example, I wrote about a fictionalized history of immigration in response to LaShawn Barber's ill-informed moralizing on the issue. Barber's version of history represents an instance of how someone operating with nothing but a data set simplified by a puerile imagination tends to avoid the effort of investigation if those fantasy "facts" support an opinion they hold dear.

H/T: The News Junkie

Cross-posted at Dr. X's Free Associations

Dr. X | May 30, 2007 | 1:58 PM
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