Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Help or Hindrance?

Help or Hindrance?: The Economic Implications of Immigration for African Americans

Daniel S. Hamermesh
Frank D. Bean
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 404
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Help or Hindrance?
    Book Description:

    With recent immigration at a near record high, many observers fear that African Americans, particularly those in low skill jobs, are increasingly losing out to immigrants in the American labor market. Because today's immigrants are largely non-European and non-white, there is also speculation that their presence will intensify the competition for housing and educational opportunities among minority groups.Help or Hindrance?probes the foundation of these concerns with the first comprehensive investigation into the effects of immigration on African Americans.

    With detailed economic analysis of African American job prospects, benefits, and working conditions,Help or Hindrance?demonstrates that although immigration does not appear to have affected the actual employment rate of blacks, it has contributed slightly to the widening gap between the annual earnings of black and white males. Those near the lowest skills level appear most affected, suggesting that the most likely losers are workers with abilities similar to those of immigrants. With many employers moving away from cities, access to housing and problems of segregation have also become integral to success in the job market. And within black neighborhoods themselves, the establishment of small immigrant businesses has raised concerns that these may hinder local residents from starting up similar ventures.Help or Hindrance?also examines how immigration has affected the educational attainment of African Americans. Increased competition for college affirmative action and remedial programs has noticeably reduced African Americans' access to college places and scholarships.

    Help or Hindrance?offers compelling evidence that although immigration has in many ways benefited parts of American society, it has had a cumulatively negative effect on the economic prospects of African Americans. In concluding chapters, this volume provides an overview of possible policy interventions and evaluates them within the current social and political climate. Because the long-term impact of current immigration on social welfare remains unknown solutions are far from clear.Help or Hindrance?provides a valuable benchmark for discussion of immigration and racial equity in a time of rapid population change.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-264-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Daniel S. Hamermesh and Frank D. Bean

    Immigration issues have in recent years risen once again to a prominent place on the public policy agenda of the United States (Teitelbaum and Weiner 1995). This is reflected not only in the results of public opinion polls that show an increase in the number of people who think current U.S. immigration levels are “too high” (Espenshade and Belanger 1997; Espenshade and Calhoun 1993) but also in the creation of a special commission to recommend changes in U.S. immigration policy (U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform 1994) and in the passage of legislation tightening restrictions on unauthorized migration (Bean et al....

  5. Part I Implications for Earnings and Income

    • CHAPTER 1 The Impact of Immigration on Income Distribution Among Minorities
      (pp. 17-50)
      George E. Johnson

      The purpose of this paper is to address several methodological issues associated with the question of the likely impact of immigration policy on the level and distribution of aggregate income. Given the high rate of immigration during the past twenty years—especially the immigration of people with relatively low levels of labor-market skill—it seems likely that the earnings of the low-skilled segment of the domestic population have been adversely impacted. On the other hand, other groups, people with relatively high labor-market skills and the owners of nonlabor factors, have probably benefited from the new immigration. Of particular interest in...

    • CHAPTER 2 Do Blacks Gain or Lose From Immigration?
      (pp. 51-74)
      George J. Borjas

      The past two decades have witnessed both the rebirth of the debate over immigration policy in the United States as well as a resurgence of academic interest in studying the economic impact of immigration. How does immigration alter the skill composition of the work force? Do the “new” immigrants find it hard to adapt to their new country? What is the impact of immigration on the earnings and employment opportunities of native-born workers? Do immigrants “pay their way” in the welfare state? A large and rapidly growing number of studies investigate each of these questions in detail (see the recent...

    • CHAPTER 3 Immigration and the Quality of Jobs
      (pp. 75-106)
      Daniel S. Hamermesh

      Perhaps the most common argument in favor of immigration is that “immigrant workers are in jobs rejected by indigenous workers” (Castles and Kosack 1973, 112). This idea, that immigrants are welcome because they take jobs that natives would not take, and thus that would otherwise not be performed, underlies some academic discussion (Piore 1979). It is also much in (at least part of) the popular mind. For example, in discussing their migration to Germany from the former Soviet Union, the ethnic German returnees stated that, “their children wanted to work, even with jobs other Germans will not look at.”²


    • CHAPTER 4 Unskilled Immigration and Changes in the Wage Distributions of Black, Mexican American, and Non-Hispanic White Male Dropouts
      (pp. 107-148)
      Cordelia W. Reimers

      A persistent reason for opposition to immigration among the general public is the belief that immigrants take jobs from native workers and that the additional supply of immigrant labor depresses the wages of natives. Even individuals who are generally “pro-immigration,” because they believe that immigration is good for the country as a whole, express concern about its effect on disadvantaged American workers. This study is part of a rapidly growing body of empirical research that has responded to this concern by trying to measure the effect of immigration on native wages. As such, it builds on the work of Grossman...

    • CHAPTER 5 An Investigation of the Effect of Immigration on the Labor-Market Outcomes of African Americans
      (pp. 149-182)
      Kristin F. Butcher

      The effect of immigration on the labor-market outcomes of the native born has historically been the most contentious issue surrounding the debate about how many immigrants to allow into the United States. As Claudia Goldin (1993) remarks in her paper on the political economy of immigration restriction, “Almost all serious calls for ... [immigration restriction] ... were preceded by economic downturns, some of major proportions, and few economic downturns of the era were not accompanied by a call for restriction in the halls of Congress.” Currently the United States is not experiencing an economic downturn, but the 1980s witnessed an...

  6. Part II Economic Effects Beyond the Labor Market

    • CHAPTER 6 Does Immigration Hurt African American Self-Employment?
      (pp. 185-221)
      Robert W Fairlie and Bruce D. Meyer

      A large number of studies examine the impact of immigration on the labor-market outcomes of native-born Americans.¹ These studies often focus on the effects of immigration on the wages and employment of African Americans and other groups with low average earnings.² This research, however, has neglected a large and growing segment of the labor force, the self-employed. The self-employed also contain a disproportionate number of immigrants, especially those from Asian countries.³ We might expect that the propensity for immigrants to choose self-employment makes the displacement of self-employed natives more likely. In this study we examine whether immigration has a negative...

    • CHAPTER 7 Immigration, Race, and Space
      (pp. 222-252)
      Jeffrey S. Zax

      Residential segregation is perhaps the predominant characteristic of black urban populations in the United States. Segregation restricts black choices in housing markets (Yinger 1995) and, more generally, in the market for household assets (Kain and Quigley 1975). It is responsible for segregation in public schools (Harding 1983) and black under-representation on city councils elected by districts (Zax 1990). Incomes of metropolitan blacks may depend on the nature of segregation and more generally on metropolitan spatial organization through both spatial mismatches and neighborhood effects.

      The spatial mismatch hypothesis asserts that segregation can restrict blacks to neighborhoods that are remote from many...

    • CHAPTER 8 Educational Crowding Out: Do Immigrants Affect the Educational Attainment of American Minorities?
      (pp. 253-281)
      Julian R. Betts

      A large body of literature addresses the important question of how rapidly immigrants to the United States adapt to their new home in terms of labor-market performance. Perhaps an equally important question is how the presence of immigrants affects the economic well-being of American-born residents of the United States. This issue has received much less attention. To date, most research in this area has tested for an impact of immigrant flows on the wages of native-born Americans. Examples include Altonji and Card (1991), Bean, Lowell, and Taylor (1988), Borjas (1990), Grossman (1982), and LaLonde and Topel (1991). The typical conclusion...

    • CHAPTER 9 Do Immigrants Crowd Disadvantaged American Natives Out of Higher Education?
      (pp. 282-321)
      Caroline M. Hoxby

      Many Americans think of higher education as a bridge that those who are born disadvantaged must cross to gain access to the full range of income, professional, and social opportunities in the United States. This notion may be somewhat simplistic, but it is widely held and has undoubtedly motivated a variety of policies intended to increase access to higher education for the disadvantaged. The best-known of these policies are the Pell grants, federal tuition subsidies for low-income students, and affirmative action, admissions preferences for racial and ethnic minorities. These policies are merely the most conspicuous of a host of access...

    • CHAPTER 10 Immigration and Crime Among Young Black Men: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth
      (pp. 322-342)
      Jeffrey T. Grogger

      Immigration and crime are two of the most pressing public policy problems of the 1990s. New immigrants have arrived in the United States recently in numbers not seen since early in the century, and the evidence suggests that their labor-market skills are lower than those of immigrants from the 1950s and 1960s (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service 1991; Borjas 1985). Reported crime rates have fallen a bit in the last few years but remain roughly three times higher than they were just thirty years ago (U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, various years). Discussions in the press and comments by public...

  7. Part III Implications beyond the Labor Market

    • CHAPTER 11 Immigration and Native Minority Workers: Is There Bad News After All?
      (pp. 345-352)
      Marta Tienda

      Well before econometric studies of the labor-market consequences of immigration became fashionable, Vernon Briggs (1973) warned that Mexican immigration makes poor Chicanos poorer by undercutting wages and displacing workers. Such warnings were dismissed by pro-immigration advocates who argued that foreign workers take jobs that native-born workers refuse. Briggs’s position implied that immigrants and domestic minority workers were substitutes in production, while opponents argued that immigrants are complements in production, even in areas that receive large volumes of immigrants such as southern California and Texas. Until recently it appeared that Briggs was wrong, not only with respect to Chicanos, but also...

    • CHAPTER 12 What Does Labor Economics Contribute to Debates Over Immigration?
      (pp. 353-360)
      Richard B. Freeman

      Economic analysis offers three major insights into the perennial debate over the appropriate level of immigration into a society.

      The first insight is that the benefits and costs of immigration are closely interrelated—two sides of the same coin, as it were. If the benefits to receiving countries from immigration are large, so too are the costs of immigration. If the costs are small, so too are the benefits. You cannot readily argue that immigration raises economic output without harmingsomenative workers, nor, on the other side, that it harms some natives without improving the lot of others.


    • CHAPTER 13 Reflections on the Effects of Immigrants on African Americans—and Vice Versa
      (pp. 361-375)
      Peter H. Schuck

      Most of the chapters in this book deal with the economic effects of immigration on African Americans, but as a lawyer I have little to contribute to that particular debate. Instead, I shall reflect on other possible effects that immigration may have on the native-born African American population. The book’s subtitle uses the term “African Americans” to refer to American blacks. In common parlance, of course, this is perfectly conventional; we use these two referents pretty much interchangeably. But scholars do not always engage in common parlance, and when we discuss how immigration to the United States affects a group...

    • CHAPTER 14 Reflections on Family Issues in Immigration
      (pp. 376-380)
      Linda Oatcher Loury

      Increasing interest in the effects of immigration on native blacks and Hispanics largely results from recent growth in the numbers of immigrants, concerns about competition between these groups, and speculation about the influence of the immigrants on the socioeconomic environment in which many blacks and Hispanics live. Five studies in this volume provide considerable insight into these questions in the areas of criminal behavior, residential segregation, self-employment, and education. One general conclusion that can be drawn from examining the results is that a complete understanding of the consequences of immigration requires both disaggregated, detailed analysis as well as an aggregated...

  8. INDEX
    (pp. 381-394)