NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 30, 2004

The Census Bureau reports that the poverty rate rose to 12.5 percent in 2003, up from 12.1 percent the year before but far below the average rate of 13.9 percent from 1980 to 1998. A deeper look into the figures also shows that, at least in part, some of this is due to the effects of immigration, says Investor's Business Daily.

Over the past several decades, the poverty level of new arrivals has increased dramatically, reflecting both liberalized immigration policies and the wide gap between the United States and lands directly to its south:

  • In 2003, the poverty rate among foreign-born U.S. residents who are not citizens was 21.7 percent.
  • The median income of noncitizens fell by 5.6 percent in 2003, from $34,758 to $32,806.

What these numbers say, says IBD, is that, to some degree, poverty is imported as well as home-grown. And the federal government can't claim to be an innocent bystander. It is responsible for setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration law. If it wished, it could set the entry bar higher in terms of skills or education.

It could certainly clamp down harder on U.S. corporations that rely on illegal migrants as a source of cheap, unskilled labor.

Among the many facets of the poverty report, the immigration connection probably will be one of the least noted by either party, says IBD. But it points to a troubling trend that affects workplaces, hospitals, schools and civic cultures not only in border states but, increasingly, all over America.

Source: Editorial, "Unpacking Poverty," Investor's Business Daily, August 27, 2004.


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