The high rate of employment for Mexicans in New York

In a time of widespread joblessness, Mexicans in New York have proved unusually adept at finding and keeping work. Of the city’s 10 largest immigrant groups, they have the highest rate of employment and are more likely to hold a job than New York’s native-born population, according to an analysis of the most recently available census data. They are even employed at a greater rate than Mexicans nationwide.

And as they have filled the city’s restaurant kitchens and building sites, they have acquired a reputation for an extraordinary work ethic.

There is more here.  There are interesting implications for whether current unemployment is all about demand and whether marginal productivities justify the expected costs of hiring (some groups of) non-Mexicans:

One reason Mexicans have found work in such numbers, experts say, is that many are illegal immigrants, and less likely to report workplace abuses to the authorities for fear of deportation.

“Illegal immigrants are very convenient,” said Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. “Employers are quite interested in employing people who are willing to work and to overlook some labor laws.”

…Across the country, immigrants in general are more likely to be employed than the American-born. They tend to be more willing to move in pursuit of jobs and to take any job they can find, especially if they lack access to unemployment benefits.


Selection bias? If you're an illegal immigrant living in the US and aren't working, wouldn't you just go home?

Immigrants have extensive family-and-friends networks in the host country, in fact that is often how they heard of opportunities in the host country in the first place. This is a huge advantage in finding work that natives don't have.

"“Illegal immigrants are very convenient,† said Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. “Employers are quite interested in employing people who are willing to work and to overlook some labor laws.† "

Here's an idea. If these labor laws are really so horrible, lets repeal them and let employers treat employees in whatever way they want, as long as the markets will tolerate. Then we don't need to tolerate widespread violation of our immigration laws, in order to enable widespread violation of our labor laws! All this winking and nodding at legal evasions will slowly exact a huge cost for American society, as this sort of attitude tends to spread.

Your story has a very classical feel to it.

I bet illegal immigrants both work for low wages and have plenty of wage flexibility. Of course, the lack of access to government support supports wage flexibility. Willingness to work at low wages generates employment, even in a recession. Surprised?

I wonder about employer provided benefits or mandated benefits. Employers may not ever offer such benefits to illegals. It may be that benefits are a major cause of wage inflexibility. Plus they are a fixed cost of hiring and a fixed cost of retaining an employee. As the fixed costs rise, the barrier to hiring goes up.

Do minimum wage laws apply to illegals effectively? If not, the 41% rise in the minimum wage over the past three years may have reduced legal's employment relative to illegal's employment.

Finally, I wonder if employers pay the payroll tax on illegals or if they withhold income tax. The absence of taxation not only reduces the cost of labor absolutely but relative to legal labor.

Classical theory can explain a lot. But from this perspective, illegals really do take jobs from natives as well as reduce the average wage and as well as shrink tax revenues.

Selection bias is a little different--if you're not willing to work your ass off, you're not as likely to go through the trouble of getting here in the first place.

That being said, for Mexican illegal immigrants and the jobs we're talking about here, labor laws are a far bigger issue. No minimum wage, risk of deportation for reporting workplace abuses, no back pay for a lost unlawful termination suit--an abusive employer could do really nasty things to an illegal immigrant employee with little risk of punishment. I represented one such employee in law school (she had a sexual harassment claim, so she could get emotional damages)--they treated the employees terribly, often making them act as personal servants doing things like cleaning their house (and we're talking about factory cooks here, not janitors).

You have to either enforce the immigration laws or drop the labor laws; otherwise you get the very nasty situation we have now.

Oops - too quick - So labor laws and taxes reduce employment? Holy Murray Rothbard!

New York City has ridiculously high commercial rents, so its possible that illegal immigration really is keeping the economy -as its currently structured- afloat. Businesses might not be able to both afford the rents and to follow the labor laws. Tough for people who are born here and who need a job.

Presumably if the labor laws were enforced, enough businesses would fold that the rents would have to come down. In the long run, this would probably be beneficial. But I don't have any confidence in the rents behaving this way, since I suspect that they are being propped up by things other than market forces.

So I guess the benefit exceeds the risk of being penalize

How many of the jobs in question exist ONLY because they pay abysmally? And low wage labor isn't always productive labor. When I see a bunch of guys standing around at the end of a car wash I think that the owner finds it cheaper than installing a blower to dry the cars.

American slaves in the pre-Civil War south had no problem finding work from what I've read. Not sure that's the best model to strive for.

I've always said that if I owned a business in the service industry, I'd be goddamned if I ever hired anyone who wasn't Hispanic (I am a white American). I just look back to my fast food days in high school and remember that they a) never called off b) could finish any task in half the time it would take an American c) never talked back d) didn't slack when the management wasn't looking and e)were completely happy to continue working there for year in and year out.

Interesting natural experiment. What would the labor market look like if it had fewer worker protection laws? It would have more employment!

They took our jerbs!

It's amusing to read in this blog and others the suggestions that illegal immigrants work for less than minimum wage. I've known a couple of employers who hired illegal immigrants, both in boom years and during the 2001 recession. Based on the experiences they've had, I think it unlikely that illegal immigrants work for very long at less than $8.00 an hour here in Texas and the Southwest. If illegal immigrants were making less than that in New York, my guess is that they would migrate to states where pay is higher and cost of living is less.

FYI, over 5.6 million illegal immigrants have received tax ID's from the IRS since 1996. The rationale for such a worker to register with the IRS and pay taxes is that doing so will eventually provide proof of long term employment. Immigration judges consider the length of employment in the U.S. as one factor in allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S.

John Dewey: No one's talking about the minimum wage. The original post and the main thread identified labor laws as a probable major cause, though you should know that illiterate immigrants in rural areas doing farm work aren't scoping around on the Internet for higher wages.

Anyway, $8 without taxes, forms, fees, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and regulations AAA00000001 through ZZZ99999999 is a better wage for the employee and a lower cost for the employer.

Angel: You must be an activist who has never worked to put out a product or service that people want to pay for. Or maybe you are one of the 20 to 80 percent who are lazy and stupid that everyone else has to pick up after, while you dream of how great you are.

Seems to me the selection problem happens earlier in the process. Those willing to emigrate, both legally and illegally, probably have more confidence in their own skills and may in fact be better risk takers. Therefore, those arriving here in the US are on average "better" in some measure than their home country peers.

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